- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will get his first chance in net in nearly three weeks Saturday against the Nashville Predators, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday.
Khabibulin hasn’t started since Oct. 29. He struggled in his last two starts, allowing six goals on 25 shots against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 24 and giving up four goals on 22 shots before being pulled in the second period against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 29. He is 1-0-1 with a 4.73 goals-against average and .818 save percentage in three games this season.
The Blackhawks return home to play the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
“Both games equally tough, as far as when you look at it,” Quenneville said Friday. “I think getting him a start on the road, getting him back into the swing of things is what we’re looking at.
“I think [for] goalies every start is a big start. I think it’s been awhile since he played. Hopefully, he can get in there and do his thing and feel comfortable.”
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford started the team’s last six games and went 5-0-1 during that span. He is expected to start against the Sharks on Sunday.
Quenneville recently said he expected Khabibulin to bounce back and remain the team’s backup goaltender. Some fans have called for prospect Antti Raanta to replace Khabibulin. Raanta, who was signed from Finland last season, is 6-5-0 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 12 games for the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL this season.
“I think once he gets rolling here I think we’re going to be fine,” Quenneville said of Khabibulin. “And he’ll get his turns in the net. Right now, he’s had a stretch here without playing, but we envision him to get back in and get his regular starts that we anticipated at the start of the year. But he’s working hard in practice to get that chance to get back in and do what he can do.”