In a season in which the games have lost much of their meaning, for one Blackhawk stepping on the ice Wednesday night will mean a lot.
Patrick Lalime, signed last summer to backup Nikolai Khabibulin, is scheduled to make his first NHL appearance since April 1 when the Hawks face Vancouver at GM Place.Khabibulin was in goal Tuesday when the Hawks continued their seven-game trip in Calgary, but he is expected to get a complete day off Wednesday as coach Denis Savard is planning on starting Lalime and having Brian Boucher back him up.
Khabibulin came up huge Tuesday, stopping both shootout attempts by the Flames as the Hawks rallied for a 3-2 victory, 2-0 in the shootout.
Martin Havlat scored two third-period power-play goals in the final three minutes, forcing overtime with 28 seconds to go. Havlat and Jeff Hamilton scored in the shootout.
For Lalime, Wednesday will be the culmination of a long road back. He injured his knee last April while playing for St. Louis. He had surgery and was working out over the summer with no ill effects until a couple weeks before training camp.
Lalime was riding a bicycle when he "felt a little pop," he said. "I had just started skating again that week and by the end of the week the pain was shooting down to my toe."
Lalime injured his back and that required surgery right before the start of Hawks' training camp, forcing the team to bring Boucher in for a tryout and sign him for the rest of the season.
After spending some time in Norfolk of the American Hockey League, where he played four games with a 3-1 record, 2.49 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, Lalime was ready to return to do what he originally signed with the Hawks to do--play goal.
"If I could have chosen it, this isn't the way I would have done it," Lalime said. "But there is no sense in looking back."
Lalime's performance Wednesday, and in other games he gets in the rest of the season, will have implications for his future. The Hawks have little need for three goaltenders and the expectation is that one may be moved by the trade deadline--likely either Lalime or Boucher.
"There is always a lot on your mind when you play," Lalime said. "But I'll take it one day at a time."
BLACKHAWKS 3, FLAMES 2 (SHOOTOUT)
Havlat keys rally; Hamilton wins it
Hawks overcome 2-0 deficit in 3rd period
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