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Sentencing decision expected this afternoon in Nikolai Khabibulin's extreme DUI trial

Aug 31, 2010, 11:30 AM EST

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for khabibulindui.jpgThis afternoon will mark a pivotal moment for the Edmonton Oilers and Nikolai Khabibulin’s life in general, as an Arizona judge will pass along the Russian goalie’s prison sentence after he was found guilty of three charges related to an extreme DUI incident.

Here are a few quick facts about the situation, in case you haven’t been following the coverage of the court case.

  • Khabibulin will face at least 30 days in jail by Arizona state law, but could receive a maximum of six months if the judge finds his cause particularly unsympathetic.
  • While we discussed the far-out possibility of the Oilers voiding Khabibulin’s contract, it seems like that is highly unlikely. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson made an interesting comparison to Mike Bell, a troubled forward who honestly is almost a forgotten player even though he’s not that far removed from an up-and-down NHL career.

On the surface, this is a different scenario than the one involving former NHL winger Mark Bell a few years back.

Bell was convicted of drunk driving in 2007 after his rented Toyota Camry rear-ended a pickup truck in California, plowing that vehicle into a telephone pole. The truck driver was injured in the accident over the Labour Day weekend in 2006. Bell was subsequently suspended by the NHL for 15 games.

Bell, who took a breathalyzer that registered .21, was sentenced to six months in jail, but only served six weeks behind bars.

There was personal injury in the Bell accident. Nobody was hurt in Khabibulin’s case.

Of course, a devil’s advocate stance would be that Khabibulin was simply fortunate that no one else was hurt in his scenario. After all, that’s one of the dangers of drunk driviing; you’re not just putting your life (and your passengers’ lives) in jeopardy, but other drivers as well.

  • It would be a surprising turn of events, but you cannot totally rule out the NHL suspending Khabibulin either. As Matheson pointed out, Bell missed 15 games for his transgressions.
  • Chances are, Khabibulin will miss either a portion of training camp, if not the entire proceedings altogether. That’s not exactly great news for a team with a lot of new faces in the first place.
  • Whatever way you slice it, the Oilers’ goalie situation is murky. Khabibulin has back problems and is old. Devan Dubynk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers are unproven if not below average. Martin Gerber is the definition of a journeyman goalie. They might not lack bodies in net, but would you want any of them starting for your NHL team right now?

OK, so that’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the Khabibulin extreme DUI situation. We will keep our eyes open for news on the case and pass along information once word of his sentence surfaces.

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