Khudobin, Canes focus on ‘right results’

Posted by Chip Alexander on March 7, 2014 

Anton Khudobin could have easily played out the season, gone into free agency and found out what teams were willing to pay for him.

But the Canes goalie didn't want to wait. Carolina was offering a fair contract, at what he considered a fair price, and he was ready to get the deal done before the season ended.

Truth be known, the Canes would have liked to have made it a three-year contract extension. But both sides agreed two years would work, with Khudobin being paid $2 million next season and $2.5 million the second season,

"First of all, I came here and I liked the organization, I liked the city, I liked the people," Khudobin said. "I like the way they treat me here.

"Sometimes, you want to get it done earlier, before free agency, so that all you have to do is focus on hockey. So now I've signed and the only thing I can think about is to get right results every game."

Khudobin, who would have been an unrestricted free agent, signed the contract extension on Tuesday, just hours before taking the ice in San Jose to face the Sharks. He had 35 saves and was the winner, boosting his record to 14-8-0, as the Canes took a 3-2 overtime victory in the final game of a five-game road trip.

Khudobin should start Friday night against the New York Rangers. He's now the Canes' No. 1 goalie and is proving he can handle that responsibility at the NHL level. Goaies Cam Ward and Justin Peters also are available and eager to play, but for now Khudobin is the No. 1 guy for Canes coach Kirk Muller.

"As I've said before, I'm ready to get that job," Khudobin said. "But we have three goalies. If Coach decides to play all of us, that's Coach's decision. If he decides I will play all of them, I'm happy with that. If Cam was to play all of them, it's nothing you can control. Just go to the game and get the right result for your team."

Khudobin ranks fifth in save percentage (.928) among NHL goalies with 20 or more starts this season. His 2.16 goals-against average is eighth-best among goalies with 20 or more starts. The consistency has been there, even if he was out more than two months with an ankle injury.

The Canes (27-26-9) go into the Friday's game seven points behind the third-place Rangers (33-26-4) in the Metropolitan Division and six points out of a wild-card playoff spot.

"We are a little behind but we have 20 games left," Khudobin said. "We need to (empty) our tanks and get the best results we can."

At their morning skate, the Canes' lines had Eric Staal centering Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm; Jordan Staal with Jiri Tlusty and Alex Semin; Riley Nash centering Nathan Gerbe and Pat Dwyer, and Andrei Loktionov at center with Drayson Bowman and Manny Malhotra. Radek Dvorak was the extra forward.

Loktionov, traded Wednesday to Carolina by the New Jersey Devils, was used on a power-play unit with Jordan Staal, Tlusty, John-Michael Liles and Ryan Murphy.

"He gives us the playmaking half-wall guy we were looking for with that unit," Muller said. "He's creative, he's offensive. We were looking for a forward who could kind of quarterback off the half-wall."

Defensively, Andrej Sekera was paired with Liles, Ron Hainsey with Brett Bellemore and Murphy with Jay Harrison. It appears Mike Komisarek will be a healthy extra.

Defenseman Justin Faulk, who is sidelined with an upper-body injury, did get in some individual skating before the team's morning skate.

Muller said Friday's game should be one with "lots of energy, a high tempo. We want to play a fast game and build off that game at San Jose, which is arguably our best game of the year."

Of the San Jose game, he added, "We battled through the whole 60 minutes. … I liked the way we stated focused, stayed to the plan and played a good tempo game."

Muller said he believed Liles played his best game since being acquired in the New Year's Day trade with Toronto. All six defensemen, Muller said, were solid, matched up well and competed well.

The Canes play three of the next four games at home but Muller said he's not looking at the big picture for now or computing playoff chances.

"We're not even going to talk playoffs right now,” Muller said. “We've got the Rangers in tonight and we've got to do the job. If we take care of our business each day, then we'll see where we end up later on."

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