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Nikolai Khabibulin hopes to rebuild his career, life after ugly DUI incident

Sep 18, 2010, 11:45 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for nikolaikhabibulin3.jpgIt’s been a rough summer for goalies, no doubt about it. Evgeni Nabokov had to take his steady stream of 35 to 40 win seasons to Russia to earn a big pay day. Marty Turco sweated out nearly all summer long until he settled for a shorter version (from $2 million per year for three seasons to one) of the deal the Flyers originally offered. Dan Ellis, Chris Mason and Antti Niemi signed bargain deals to catch on with new teams.

None of them, however, can hold a candle to the horrible summer (and really, 2010) Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin experienced. Of course, while those goalies and their agents misread the free agent market, Khabibulin’s wounds are far more self-inflicted.

The goalie reflected on the extreme DUI case that made all kinds of bad headlines since Super Bowl weekend with Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal.

While Khabibulin hopes to get comfortable in the net after just 18 games last year, his court case in Arizona continues to hang over his head after he appealed his extreme drunk-driving conviction and 30-day jail sentence in late August. There is no time frame for the appeal to be heard, which leaves his second Oilers season up in the air.

If Khabibulin is concerned about how his appeal will weigh on his employer, it doesn’t appear to be on the goalie’s radar screen after completing fitness and medical testing Friday. He is more interested in trying to work through the embarrassment of it.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on it this summer … it’s not something I wish I had to go through, but I’m taking it very seriously. It is what it is. It’s an ongoing process right now. It’s hard on everybody, my wife, my daughter,” said Khabibulin, who immediately filed an appeal after he was convicted. He could play the year out, or he could leave in mid-season for his appeal.

“I wish, collectively, we all didn’t have to deal with this.”

Let’s face it, Khabibulin is lucky that no one ended up getting hurt while he was driving so dangerously above the legal limit. As bad as things were, he can piece his life (and NHL career) back together and turn the page at 37 years old. With a young team that hopes to rebuild in a hurry, you never know, he might just be able to infuse this sad tale with a happy ending.

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