After recording a shutout in his last appearance against them earlier this month, Khabibulin and the Blackhawks continue their five-game road trip against the Kings on Thursday night at Staples Center in a matchup of two teams playing out the season.
Khabibulin, who helped backstop Tampa Bay to its only Stanley Cup championship in 2004, signed a four-year contract worth $27 million with the Blackhawks (26-34-9) shortly after the NHL lockout ended in 2005. He didn’t record his first shutout with Chicago until March 6—a span of 99 games—when he stopped 26 shots in a 3-0 win over Los Angeles (23-34-13).
That improved his record all-time against the Kings to 16-7-0 with a tie and six shutouts. The win total is the second-most he’s had against one opponent, trailing only the 17 against Calgary, and his shutout total is the most he’s had versus any foe.
Khabibulin also is two wins shy of for 250 in his career.
Chicago could use a better performance from its netminder after Patrick Lalime made only 28 saves in a 7-1 loss to San Jose on Tuesday night. That ended the Blackhawks’ bid for their first four-game winning streak since March 2002.
“Our veterans have to step up in situations like this,” Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said. “We have a young group here. Players have to calm things down, and they didn’t do it.”
The Blackhawks have dropped five of their last six games, but have won both matchups this season against the Kings and are 3-0-1 in their last four games against them.
Los Angeles snapped a five-game losing streak—the last three coming in overtime—by defeating Edmonton 5-1 on Monday night. Michael Cammalleri scored twice, Rob Blake had a goal and two assists and Lubomir Visnovsky had three assists
Cammalleri, Los Angeles’ leading scorer with 69 points, needs one goal to reach 30 for the first time in his career.
Noah Clarke also had a goal, becoming the first Southern California native to score for the Kings, who will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
“I remember going to pee wee and bantam tournaments and people kind of sneered and said, ‘Aw, California kids can’t play hockey.’ It’s still not a hotbed, but I think you see more and more California kids coming up now,” said Clarke, a La Verne, Calif. native called up from the minors on March 5.
Mathieu Garon made 26 saves for his first victory since Jan. 6, but Sean Burke has been in goal for both matchups with the Blackhawks and could get the nod Tuesday. Burke has allowed 16 goals in his last four games overall, and is only 2-5-1 with a tie and a 2.45 GAA in his last nine games against the Blackhawks.
These teams wrap up their season series on March 23 in Chicago.