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

Oct 31, 2013, 3:19 PM EDT

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) Getty Images

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.

  1. 19to77 - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    Whyyyy. He’s almost solely accountable for their losses when they start him. His goaltending has almost directly lost them four points already. If not for Toews’ absurd clutchness against Ottawa it’d be six.

    • joey4id - Oct 31, 2013 at 4:23 PM

      Agreed! Hawks need. More dependable backup. Who? Biron? Bryz?

    • joey4id - Oct 31, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      Agreed! Hawks need a more dependable backup. Who? Biron? Bryz?

  2. dadawg77 - Oct 31, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    The Hawks aren’t going to hurt the rest of the team to find cap room (currently only 500k under) to bring in another backup goalie. So its either Bullin or Raanta and since they want Raanta to play, he may stay in Rockford. I love taking about this as it is good when the backup goalie is the biggest issue.

  3. earpaniac - Oct 31, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    They don’t need any of those guys. That’s what Raanta is for. The others would be a third option. I can’t see it happening. I think they want Raanta in the AHL all year, and he will be Crawford’s backup in 2014, and his replacement if he falters after that.

  4. blackhawks2010 - Oct 31, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    Why wait? Rannta is ready for prime time, make the move. Old Yeller is done, sorry Bulin.

  5. boomer1451 - Oct 31, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    I’m glad the Blackhawks are less panicky than you all… No need to dump Habs just yet and certainly not for anyone other than Raanta.

  6. endusersolutions2013 - Oct 31, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    Here’s the challenge. The Hawks signed Brad Mills. If Ranta plays more than 9 games, they are over the cap limit due to the 2 way he signed.

    Does anyone understand why they needed to sign this 30yo guy when they have multiple good young guys who alternate being healthy scratches?

  7. slysipops - Nov 2, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    THE BOOLIN WALL was weak when he left the HAWKS the first time…..WHY BRING HIM BACK ? he looks like a sand castle after the waves come crashing to shore

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