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

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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Adam Henrique wants to make NHL 17 great again

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Martin Jones is a calming presence in the Sharks’ net. (Sports Illustrated)

–The Rangers should go after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (The Hockey News)

–Some people have pretty wild hockey tattoos. (BarDown)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A great piece on how Bruce Boudreau impacted the Ducks and Capitals. (Sportsnet)

–It should be an interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks. (Daily Breeze)

Adam Henrique is a funny guy. He took to Twitter to try and get himself on the cover of NHL 17:

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.