Nikolai Khabibulin was speaking with the media outside the Edmonton Oilers' dressing room Wednesday morning at the United Center when Patrick Kane strolled by and without breaking stride said "keep that glove up, Khabby."
The Blackhawks winger's advice served as a greeting for his former teammate, who was back for the first time since he left for Edmonton as a free agent over the summer. The rest of the Hawks then welcomed their former goaltender back by handing him and the Oilers a 4-3 defeat before a crowd of 20,124.
Patrick Sharp had a goal and assist, Kris Versteeg, Jack Skille and Cam Barker scored goals and Antti Niemi was solid in net as the Hawks improved to 4-1-1 on the season. Brian Campbell and Jonathan Toews each added two assists.
Khabibulin was sharp, making 34 saves -- including a Sharp penalty shot and a Versteeg breakaway -- but suffered the loss.
"I thought we had a really strong game across the board," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "All the lines were contributing. We had a lot of puck possession, our defense had a lot of good gaps and they were active off the cycles and off the points. Khabibulin was solid in net for them and gave them a chance."
Sharp got the Hawks off to a quick start with his team-leading fifth goal of the season in the opening minute of the game. Andrew Ladd controlled the puck in the Oilers zone, passed to Toews and the Hawks captain sent a backhand pass to Sharp who beat Khabibulin to make it 1-0.
"We addressed our starts a little bit (Wednesday night)," Sharp said. "I think we're getting better in a lot of areas."
After Edmonton answered on goal by Andrew Cogliano, the Hawks regained the lead on Skille's score. The winger banged a rebound of a long Niklas Hjalmarsson shot past Khabibulin.
Versteeg's goal midway through the second gave the Hawks a two-goal cushion. Campbell brought the puck in deep and found the winger in the slot with a pass and Versteeg tapped the puck through Khabibulin's legs.
Khabibulin exacted a measure of revenge against Sharp when he stopped the winger on a penalty shot later in the period. Sharp was dragged down by Jason Strudwick as he rushed toward the net to be awarded the shot. Khabibulin then got a piece of the attempt with his right blocker to deny the goal.
"I couldn't help but have a smile on the penalty shot," Sharp said.
"I don't know if I had any moves that he hadn't seen already in the last four years. He's a good goalie and we're happy to get the two points."
Versteeg also was denied by Khabibulin on a short-handed breakaway early in the third.
After Edmonton's Dustin Penner cut the Oilers' deficit to 3-2, Barker got the game-winner with a power-play goal.
His point from the slot soared past Khabibulin with Sharp providing traffic.
The Oilers' Denis Grebeshkov scored late to close out the scoring.
"They're a contender," Khabibulin said. "They have a lot of depth. All three lines can score goals like last year.
"They still should challenge for the top of the conference."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun