Oct 31, 2013, 3:19 PM EST
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.
- Video: Canucks honor Quinn with “O Danny Boy” 4
- Video: Stars’ Klingberg scores from center ice 4
- Report: Alfredsson retirement to be announced Dec. 4 5
- On the odds of fighting back after Thanksgiving 7
- Why are the Oilers still bad? Look at their drafting 20
- The Leafs are worth almost seven times the Panthers, says Forbes 19
- Isles make some history; Are the Flyers headed for trouble? 43
- Crosby, Malkin power Penguins, help Fleury grab 300th win 7
- Sooner than later? Bruins GM hopes Chara can return in 10-14 days 1
- With worst save percentage in NHL, Oilers fire goalie coach 22
- Video: Milan Lucic calls Dalton Prout one-punch ‘gutless’ (99)
- Prout drops Lucic: ‘As far as I was concerned we were engaged in a fight’ (88)
- The Leafs didn’t salute their fans last night, so that’s a thing now (79)
- Jack Johnson filed for bankruptcy, parents allegedly took advantage of him (58)
- Bruins’ Lucic expected to play against Habs after getting one-punched (Updated) (47)