According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Nikolai Khabibulin suffered a lower body injury at the end of last night’s game. The Blackhawks wasted no time in calling up Rockford goalie Antti Niemi. Khabibulin is listed as day-to-day.
From all parties involved, it seems as though Khabibulin’s ‘lower body injury’ is relatively minor. He did finish the Wednesday game so that is a good sign. But he also could’ve tweaked something after the game. Thanks to Gary Bettman, only a chosen few have access to that information and we may not know for quite some time.
If the ‘Hawks had to pick where they could afford to take on an injury, goaltender would probably at the top of their list. Cristobal Huet and Khabibulin have participated in one of the strictest goalie rotations seen this side of your local house league. Huet should fill in seamlessly while Khabibulin is out. An interesting decision by the ‘Hawks was to call up Niemi. Last time Khabibulin was hurt, Corey Crawford got the call up and didn’t see a second of action. This time it’s Niemi’s turn. Just because Crawford didn’t play doesn’t mean Quenneville and staff don’t know what he’s capable of. Perhaps all they needed to see was a few practices. Either way, I highly doubt Niemi will have any chance to showcase to the fans why the ‘Hawks brass thinks so highly of him.
–Another thing to keep an eye on is who will be dressed for the ‘Hawks tomorrow night. When Coach Q scratched Troy Brouwer and Cam Barker to send a message, it wasn’t for one game. Dustin Byfuglien and James Wisniewski are the latest inmates in the Q Doghouse. For Byfuglien, like Brouwer before him, this is probably one of his last chances to get back into Q’s good graces. He’s had plenty of time and opportunities to establish himself as a top 6 forward and hasn’t done it yet. I’m not sure he’ll ever play his way into ‘Hawk fans good graces unless he rips off an opponent’s head and drinks his blood (on a per shift basis), but a 50 point campaign shouldn’t be out of the question for someone in his salary bracket. With 9 goals and 10 assists so far, he’ll end up just a bit short of that this year. Don’t worry though, he’ll have two more years to play up to his salary.
Wisniewski has been a different case. After returning from an extensive rehab in mid-December, he understandably hasn’t been the same player as last year. He got off to rough start looking a step and thought behind every play. Towards the end of January, he finally seemed to get his legs and brains underneath him. Still, his defensive play often resembles a chicken with its head cut off (not a compliment). I don’t remember him looking this disorderly the last couple years. Last year was a coming out party for him of sorts with his solid defensive play and the ever-present threat of him jumping into the play and doing some damage. This year’s model just looks a little off. Sloppy play and all, he’s still better than Matt Walker or Aaron Johnson and he certainly deserves to play ahead of either of them. Q said he wasn’t trying to punish anyone, just trying to keep his whole team sharp, and really, why shouldn’t he against a lesser Eastern Conference opponent. Tomorrow’s line-up will tell the whole truth.
–Maybe because my knowledge of the print medium consists of one class in college, but I found Tim Sassone’s column today to be a little different. I don’t recall the professor ever saying ‘You should base your story on whatever your readers think are the issue.’ It’s probably just the sign of the times, I guess.