A groin injury has kept Nikolai Khabibulin off the ice for the last seven weeks. But it’s a shoulder injury that likely will keep him off for the rest of the season.
Khabibulin underwent successful rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder on Tuesday. The timetable for his recovery is four to five months, which effectively ends the Blackhawks goaltender’s season, and possibly his career. Khabibulin turns 41 years old next Monday.
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said the shoulder had been bothering him since before he injured his groin in a game at Nashville on Nov. 16. The groin injury allowed Khabibulin time to try to rehab the shoulder, but it eventually became clear that surgery was the only option.
“It just never got better to the point where it was going to heal without surgery,” Bowman said.
Khabibulin’s job already was in jeopardy with the emergence of Antti Raanta, who is 11-1-3 since the veteran was injured. Both Bowman and Hawks coach Joel Quenneville are comfortable with Raanta backing up Corey Crawford the rest of the way.
“He’s been great for us,” Bowman said. “We signed him last summer hoping he would be able to do that, and you don’t really know until they come over to North America how they’re going to adjust to the different-sized rink. But it hasn’t taken him very long. He looks really comfortable, and certainly the guys play well in front of him. I think it’s been a nice combination so far.”
Said Quenneville: “Antti’s done an amazing job for us, and he took advantage of an opportunity here. He really helped solidify that position for us.”
Khabibulin will stay on long-term injury reserve, so his $1.7 million contract will not be factored in to the Hawks’ salary cap number.