According to the club's twitter feed, the Edmonton Oilers placed the 40 year old Russian goaltender on injured reserve today, recalling AHL net minder Yann Danis. The transaction comes one game into a crucial nine game road trip for the Oilers — one that many believe could make or break their season
After starting two of the last three games, Khabibulin was enjoying a bit of a resurgence in the Oilers net, missing the first five games of the season with a hip injury. He had been playing well as of late, posting a .935 save percentage and allowing an average of only 2.12 goals per game through his first five games played.
The goaltender had started two of the team's last three games, and though it's possible starter Devan Dubnyk told the coaching staff he needed a rest after playing in 14 of the team's first 18 games, starting Khabibulin in back-to-back games might have sent mixed messages to the younger goaltender.
After allowing an average of 4.51 goals against in his last two games played, Dubnyk is also in need of some confidence going into the remaining eight games of the road trip. Whether or not more starts were in Khabibulin's immediate future is unknown, but Dubnyk will now get the chance to prove once more that he can help the Oilers win games.
The starter has played well despite the recent cold streak. He had bailed his team out on many occasions in the early goings, making some timely saves, and his .917 save percentage is passable at sixteenth in the NHL. Khabibulin's .935 is good for third, having only started four of his five games played.
The extent and seriousness of Khabibulin's groin injury is yet to be determined, but without the aging goaltender, the organization's depth in the crease will inevitably be tested. Both Olivier Roy and newcomer Niko Hovinen have struggled in the AHL, with save percentages below .900. Oilers draft pick Tyler Bunz also struggled in his AHL test, letting in five goals in under thirty minutes played.
Should Khabibulin be out long-term, it is likely that a minor signing or trade is in the club's future if they want to compete for a playoff spot this season without sacrificing the hopes of their AHL affiliate in the process.