Khabibulin to start vs. Islanders

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will make his first start of the season against the New York Islanders on Friday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Thursday.

“We’re happy to get him playing here,” Quenneville said after practice. “I think he’s going to be a very important part to our team. He gives us experience. It gives him a chance to play as well. We’re happy to play in front of him and get to see him play here at the United Center and be a part of our team.”

The 40-year-old Khabibulin signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks in the offseason after Ray Emery, the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender last season, signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. Khabibulin spent the last four seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and previously played for the Blackhawks from 2005-09.

Consistency and avoiding injuries have been Khabibulin’s challenges in recent seasons. He suffered a groin injury last season and had very different numbers before and after the injury. He allowed 10 goals in his first five games, had the injury and then allowed three or more goals in five of his final seven games. He finished with a 4-6-1 record, 2.55 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. He has a 332-334-38 record with a 2.72 goals-against average and .908 save percentage for his career.

Khabibulin will be normally expected to play when the Blackhawks have back-to-back games. This Friday and Saturday will mark their first back-to-back contests of the season. They host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. The Blackhawks will have 18 sets of back-to-back games this season.

“There will be plenty of times for Nik to play or both of them to play because it’s going to be that kind of season,” Quenneville said earlier in the week. “We just got a real light schedule right now. That’s why we haven’t seen Nik yet. They’ll both have enough workload where they’re both happy and both happy with the contribution they’re giving their team and one another.”

Crawford is 1-1-1 with a 2.93 goals-against average and .890 save percentage after three starts this season. Five of the nine goals scored on Crawford have been on the opponent’s power play.