This isn't what Nikolai Khabibulin had in mind when he signed with the Blackhawks in the summer of 2005.
Coming off a Stanley Cup victory in the spring of 2004, Khabibulin expected to help lead the revival of a downtrodden franchise.
Even though this has been a better season for Khabibulin individually than last year, his performance is of little comfort to him.
"At this point in my career it's more important how my team does, and I'd like to be in the playoffs right now," Khabibulin said.
The Hawks will end another season watching the playoffs on television, but at least they are trying to finish with a flourish. They extended their winning streak to four gamestheir longest since March 2002with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
The win was their first over the Wings in seven games this season.
Patrick Sharp scored the clinching goal in the fourth round of the shootout.
Bryan Bickell, called up Thursday and playing his first NHL game, had his first career goal, and Nikita Alexeev scored his second as a Hawk.
Khabibulin was in goal Thursday night, and he was very busy, facing a season-high 58 shots in regulation. The Hawks were outshot 58-21 for the game and 28-7 in the third period and overtime.
"[Khabibulin] was tremendous, that's all I can say," Hawks coach Denis Savard said.
"He deserved to win. He had to make some huge saves."
Khabibulin admits being so far out of the playoff picture for so long this season has taken a toll.
"The fact that we're not even close to the eighth spot, we can't play these games the way Colorado has the last month when you're close to the playoffs," he said. "That's tough, but we just have to make the best out of it."
There were rumors at the trade deadline that Khabibulin's old team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, was interested in bringing him back.
Those rumors might heat up if the Lightning makes a quick exit in the postseason because of poor goaltending.
But Khabibulin isn't asking out.
"I've been a very loyal person, and the Blackhawks signed me to a contract and I really like it in Chicago," he said.
"This is a challenge that I don't want to bail out on and that I think is unfinished. I'm pretty stubborn that way."
Martin Havlat will go to Cleveland on Friday to be examined by the same doctor who performed the surgery on his shoulder in December 2005. Hawks general manager Dale Tallon said Havlat would need arthroscopic surgery on a torn right labrum suffered Tuesday in Nashville. But Havlat wants to wait for another diagnosis before confirming he once again will need the shoulder surgically repaired. Havlat said the pain after hurting the shoulder Tuesday wasn't as bad as when he originally hurt it in November 2005 and that now the shoulder is just sore. Brent Seabrook wore an "A" Thursday, along with Sharp. Dustin Byfuglien was recalled from Norfolk to replace the injured Adrian Aucoin, and Bickell and Jonas Nordqvist were recalled to replace Havlat and Michael Holmqvist. North Dakota lost to Boston College in the Frozen Four, ending the college season for Jonathan Toews. The Eagles will meet Michigan State for the NCAA championship Detroit was without Dominik Hasek, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.
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