Daily Herald
Hawks not even thinking of replacing Khabibulin in net
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 4/25/2009 12:01 AM

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All season the easiest decisions for Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville have had to do with goaltending.

Nothing has changed just because it's the playoffs.

As if there was even a sliver of a doubt about who would start in goal Saturday night for the Hawks in pivotal Game 5 against the Calgary Flames at the United Center, Quenneville obliged those reporters who haven't been paying attention to the workings of the team until now by saying it would be Nikolai Khabibulin.

Quenneville responded with a flat-out "no" when asked if he had considered switching to Cristobal Huet with the series tied at 2-2.

Despite Khabibulin allowing 9 goals in the 2 losses at Calgary, it's a best-of-three series now and he's still the goalie who gives the Hawks the best chance of advancing.

"Nik has been around," Quenneville said. "He's playoff tested. He has a great mind-set and understands what's at stake and I think he recovers and transfers his mind-set in the right fashion to get excited about (the next) game.

"Khabby been great for us all year and a very important guy for us. He's played well and we expect to continue to go on for us and be the guy."

The problems in Games 3 and 4 for the Hawks had more to do with defensive coverage. The only truly bad goal by Khabibulin was the one Rene Bourque scored from behind the goal line in Game 3.

"All the games have been tight, close basically from start to finish," Quenneville said. "It's been on the line and Khabby has kept us in games and he's been important. You know the goaltending is critical and vital. We know what he means to our team and we're going to be counting on him."

Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said there isn't a player in the dressing room who doesn't believe in Khabibulin.

"He's still making big stops," Toews said. "I think in a lot of ways it's more about how we play in front of him and the chances we give up and how we limit those chances.

"He's going to be there no matter what, making at least 1 or 2 big saves a game that could be difference-makers.

"Definitely the problem rests with us and the way we play. We definitely have to be a little smarter in front of him. He's pretty rock solid."

So far the home team has won each of the games, with their respective buildings providing definite advantages. The Hawks are banking on another frenzied atmosphere at the UC.

"Having the crowd in our favor is going to be helpful in a lot of ways, but taking advantage of the home ice, you just can't expect it. You have to deliver," Quenneville said.

"They definitely used their home crowd and now we're back here and we have a lot of confidence in this building," Toews said. "We need to use that and just be excited about the opportunity we have.

"I think both teams are feeling a little pressure, but we look at this as an advantage."

Most Stanley Cup playoff series go deep, especially when the fourth and fifth seeds meet. Losses must be parked, and quickly,

"There are so many ups and downs, game to game and even during games, and I think that's what guys are understanding," Brian Campbell said. "We're feeling good. We're excited. Game 5 is in our building and we worked hard for that all year.

"I think you could see in Games 1 and 2 the play was at one level and then it's to another level. It's going to get to another now and we have to get up there."

Blackhawks vs. Calgary Flames at the United Center, 8 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WGN 720-AM

At a glance: The best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series is tied 2-2 with the home team winning each game. The Hawks were 2-for-4 on the power play in their Game 4 loss and would like to keep the momentum going there. Flames center Daymond Langkow (hand) will play, but center Craig Conroy and winger Rene Bourque are questionable with undisclosed injuries.

Next: Game 6 at the Pengrowth Saddledome, 8:30 p.m. Monday.