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Crawford back in net again as backup Khabibulin waits

Updated: November 10, 2013 11:45PM



Coach Joel Quenneville insists that once Nikolai Khabibulin gets rolling, the beleaguered backup goalie will be fine.

But he hasn’t exactly been in a rush to give Khabibulin that chance.

For the second consecutive weekend, Corey Crawford started a road game Saturday and a home game Sunday. With three days off until a game Thursday against the Coyotes, Khabibulin won’t see the ice until at least next weekend, as the Hawks again are on the road Saturday and at home Sunday.

Khabibulin hasn’t played since he was pulled midway through the game Oct. 29 against the Senators after giving up 10 goals in less than five periods over two starts. In three starts, he has a 4.73 goals-against average and an .818 save percentage. The Hawks actually took five of six points in those three games.

Quenneville said he hasn’t lost faith in the 40-year-old.

‘‘I just think once he gets rolling here, I think we’re going to be fine,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He’ll get his turns in the net. Right now, he’s had a stretch here without playing. But we envision him getting back in there and getting his regular starts that we anticipated at the start of the year. He’s working hard in practice to get that chance to get back in there and do what he can do.’’

Last season, Crawford was fresh for the playoffs after Ray Emery played in 21 of the 48 regular-season games. Crawford’s on pace to start 69 games; he never has started more than 57 in his career. Crawford said he’s not concerned about being driven into the ground, though.

‘‘Nah, I’m in shape,’’ he said. ‘‘Still fairly young. No worries.’’

West is best

Eight Western Conference teams have at least 24 points — the number of points the Lightning has to lead the East. The Ducks lead the way with 31 points.

After fattening up on Eastern Conference teams, the Hawks are in the middle of an 18-game stretch against West foes.

‘‘We thought the West was pretty good, but I don’t think anybody anticipated the strength that it’s shown so far,’’ Quenneville said.

Brookbank still in

Quenneville rarely changes his lineup after a victory. Sure enough, defenseman Sheldon Brookbank was the third-line right wing for the third game in a row. Rookie Jeremy Morin was once again a healthy scratch.

Handzus update

Center Michal Handzus, who hasn’t played since
Oct. 24 because of an upper-body injury, skated on his own again Sunday. Quenneville said he’s closer to returning to practice but still is a week or two away from getting into a game.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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