Nikolai Khabibulin #39 of the Chicago Blackhawks follows the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during an exhibition game at United Center on September 19, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.
(September 18, 2013 - Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

Khabibulin says ‘I have to do better’; Hawks won’t recall Raanta


The Blackhawks aren’t ready to give up on Nikolai Khabibulin.

That was the story out of Chicago on Thursday, as head coach Joel Quenneville said the club would stick with the veteran netminder as its backup, rather than call up Finnish standout Antti Raanta from AHL Rockford.

Khabibulin, 39, said he appreciates the show of support, but also knows his play has to improve.

“It’s nice for the guys to stick up for me and everything, but it’s pretty simple,” Khabibulin said, as per ESPN Chicago. “I have to do better.”

Several Chicago players defended Khabibulin in the wake of two bad performances — allowing six goals on 25 shots in a 6-5 OT loss to Tampa Bay last week, then getting hooked after allowing four goals on 22 shots in an eventual 6-5 win over Ottawa on Tuesday.

Khabibulin was at a loss to explain what happened.

“Whatever reason after a couple of goals, it just kind of snowballs,” he explained. “I think I got to relax a bit and just go play.”

Relaxation might be difficult, though, considering who’s behind Khabibulin in the pecking order.

Raanta, 24, signed with Chicago in June after lighting up the Finnish league. He backstopped Assat to the ’13 SM-liiga championship (capturing the Jari Kurri Trophy, Finland’s equivalent to the Conn Smythe), and that came after he posted a 1.33 GAA and .955 save percentage during the regular season, winning the league’s top goaltender award and MVP.

In August, goalie coach Jaakko Rosendahl raved about Raanta’s presence and mental approach, and Raanta’s looked good for Rockford this season, posting a 5-1-0 record with a .926 save percentage and 2.40 GAA.

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

Carey Price,
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Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 30-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury

Report: Jets offered Byfuglien for Hamonic, Isles said no

Dustin Byfuglien

If Travis Hamonic could choose one team to be traded to, he’d probably choose Winnipeg. The 25-year-old Islanders defenseman wants to be closer to his family, and his family is from Manitoba. Hamonic already owns a condo in Winnipeg.

So far, though, the Jets and Islanders haven’t been able to work out a deal. The Jets have three right-shot defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers who could, theoretically, be swapped for Hamonic, also a right shot.

“I think the Islanders were offered Byfuglien and they said no,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said this morning on Sportsnet 960, per Today’s Slapshot. “And I understand why, because Byfuglien’s got no term left.

“I think they’d love to have Trouba, but the Jets aren’t really there to do it. Myers, if it’s happened – I can’t say for sure it has or hasn’t – I’m not sure that’s the deal either team really wants to make, to be perfectly honest.”

Byfuglien is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s expected to cash in big-time on his next deal. The 30-year-old may not be the most disciplined player, but at his best, he’s an absolute force on the back end.

That the Isles reportedly said no to Byfuglien shouldn’t really come as a surprise, given his contract uncertainty. However, it does make one wonder about his future in Winnipeg. Remember that the salary cap is not expected to go up by much, and the Jets have another pending UFA in captain Andrew Ladd, plus a couple of key RFAs in Trouba and Mark Scheifele.

While it’s never easy to tell what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is thinking, the big question with Byfuglien and the Jets may end up being when, not if, they part ways. Will it be after the season or before the Feb. 29 trade deadline?

Preds still haven’t found their scoring touch

Mike Fisher
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The Nashville Predators got off to a relatively good start this season, but something seems to have happened to their offense over the last six games.

Prior to Nov. 20, the Preds had only been shut out once in their first 17 games. Since then, they’ve been blanked three times and have just six goals in their last six contests.

If you remove Mike Fisher from the equation, the numbers are even more dreadful.

Fisher’s scored three of those six goals, while Filip Forsberg, Shea Weber, James Neal and Mike Ribeiro have none.

After Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Buffalo , here’s what coach Peter Laviolette told the Tennessean: “I thought we could’ve had more gas, to be honest with you. The energy just wasn’t there; maybe the second period had something to do with that or the road trip, which was a long trip. I’m not making any excuses, but I think when we play at a higher tempo that’s when we’re at our best, and we had more to push in that area tonight.”

The first game back home after a long road trip is typically a difficult one for most teams, so we’ll see how the Predators respond on Tuesday night when they host Arizona.

A month to remember: Duchene lighting it up in November

Matt Duchene, Nick Holden
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It wasn’t too long ago that a report surfaced saying that the Avalanche were willing to listen to offers on forward Matt Duchene.

When a player’s struggling and rumors start swirling, one of two things tends to happen.

Either the player involved lets it affect his on-ice performance in a negative way or he’s motivated by the trade talk and turns his struggles around.

Instead of pouting, the 24-year-old rolled up his sleeves and got to work.

In October, Duchene scored a goal and an assist in 10 games, but things changed in a hurry when November rolled around.

The Avs forward has picked up at least one point in 11 of 13 games this month.

Duchene has 11 goals and nine assists in November and he still has a game to go before the calendar flips to December.

“Obviously, things completely flip-flopped,” Duchene told the Denver Post. “That’s the coldest start I’ve ever had and things are good right now. Obviously, I know it could go right back, I could go cold again, that’s just the nature of the game. You just have to work every day to keep it going. The most important thing is to be able to provide offense and help the team win.”