Friday, July 3, 2009


Nikolai Khabibulin didn't spend a lot of time making up his mind to become an Edmonton Oiler.


"It happened very quickly -- an hour, hour and a half," the 36-year-old goaltender said during a conference call with the media on Thursday, one day after agreeing to a four-year contract with the Oilers. "My agent called after Edmonton offered the deal. We thought about it a little bit and decided to go with it.

"Edmonton made such a big commitment. There weren't too many opportunities out there for such a long term."
Khabibulin spent the past four seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. His best season was the most recent -- in 2008-09, he won back the starting job after the Hawks signed Cristobal Huet during the summer, led Chicago to its first playoff berth since 2002 and was a key to the Blackhawks' run to the Western Conference Finals. Khabibulin finished the regular season with a 25-8-7 record, a 2.33 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in Chicago.

Khabibulin will fill the No. 1 goaltending job that was vacated when 39-year-old Khabibulin excelled in Chicago in 2008-09 after being put on waivers at the start of the season and going unclaimed. He said the season was a learning experience.
"I feel really good," Khabibulin said. "The last seven or eight years, I really started to take good care of my body -- a lot of workouts in the summer. I think a lot of goalies, especially lately, have been playing into their 40s." -- Nikolai Khabibulin

"I learned quite a bit," he said. "I learned you have to fight no matter what. I think the guys in the locker room respect that. I think I developed more character this year because I was constantly fighting for playing time."

Khabibulin won't have to fight for playing time in Edmonton -- his backup figures to be rookie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who played only a handful of games this past season.
Asked how many games he'd be comfortable playing, he replied: "I think if I can play 60 games at a high level, that would be pretty good. I like to feel that the more I play, the better I play."

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