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Khabibulin hurt in Blackhawks’ blowout loss to Predators

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Updated: November 16, 2013 11:48PM



NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Clearly injured and unable to get up after flailing for a Shea Weber shot that sailed high and wide late in the first period, Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin lay prone on the ice while play continued. The puck came to Nashville’s Patric Hornqvist on the doorstep, and with whatever strength he had left in his body, Khabibulin lunged up to make a tremendous, gutsy save.

The question now following the Hawks’ dreadful 7-2 loss Saturday night to the Predators — who had scored a total of two goals in their last four games — is, was it the last save he’ll make in a Hawks uniform?

Khabibulin was making his first appearance in 17 days after two straight poor outings. This one wasn’t going any better, as he gave up two goals on eight shots before leaving the game with an injury. It took the 40-year-old Khabibulin a couple of minutes and some help to get up before he slowly skated off the ice, hunched over. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said he “could be out a bit,” and the team was evaluating its options — likely calling up Finnish import Antti Raanta in time for Sunday’s home game against high-powered San Jose.

“We’ll know more tomorrow,” Quenneville said.

It was just a bad night getting worse, as Hawks star Marian Hossa — red hot of late, with five goals and four assists in his last eight games — was a surprise scratch after warmups with a lower-body injury, despite making the trip to Nashville. It was the first game Hossa missed all season, as the back issue that kept him out of the preseason hadn’t caused him any problems through the first 19 games.

Quenneville said there’s still a chance Hossa could play Sunday.

After Khabibulin was hurt, Corey Crawford came in and gave up five goals on 22 shots — smashing his stick after Weber scored the seventh of the night on the power play — as the Hawks looked sluggish and disinterested for the first two periods (even though it was the Predators coming off a 17-day road trip and a four-game losing streak) and didn’t do much to help either goaltender.

Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said the Predators’ recent woes shouldn’t have mattered, that the Hawks know all too well how difficult they are to play against.

“We’ve got to respond [Sunday] night,” Toews said. “We’ve got to learn that we’re not too good to go out there and just play pond hockey. We’ve got to work for it every single night. We’re a really tough team to beat when all four lines show up, and we all work and we all play the right way. And we’re not going to get far if we’re not willing to do that.”

By the time Patrick Kane and Brandon Pirri scored to draw the Hawks within 4-2, it was too late, and the Predators poured it on with three more third-period goals — including one by former Hawks winger Viktor Stalberg 15 seconds after Pirri’s.

The Hawks had been 7-0-1 in their previous eight games.

“We were very generous and gifting tonight on the goals,” Quenneville said. “I haven’t seen that in a long time. It was a free night for them offensively. We were very gracious.”

Crawford, who has played in 18 of the Hawks’ 20 games, now has given up 13 goals in his last two-plus games. But both he and Quenneville shrugged off the idea that Khabibulin’s struggles and the corresponding heavy workload are taking their toll, pointing out that the Hawks have had plenty of days off over the last two weeks.

“I feel good,” Crawford said. “There’s no fatigue.”

Still, the Hawks will have to give another goaltender a chance, especially with another game on Sunday, followed by the seven-game, 13-day circus trip. Raanta has had mixed results in Rockford but has been stronger lately (6-5, 2.84 GAA, .913 save percentage) as he adjusts to the smaller North American rink. Another possibility is Kent Simpson, who gave up a team-best four goals in 120 minutes during training camp, but is 2-4 with a 3.68 GAA in Rockford.

Despite the lopsided loss and the injuries, Quenneville wasn’t pushing the panic button.

“It’s one game, one game,” he said. “Let’s move forward and learn from it. Let’s go.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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