Carolina Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin and goaltending coach David Marcoux had a long skull session Wednesday.
The two watched the game video from the Canes’ 4-2 win Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They analyzed Khudobin’s every movement in net, reviewed his 28 saves and looked for areas that might be improved.
“We replayed the whole game and discussed certain elements in his game,” Marcoux said Thursday. “It was, ‘Keep this up,’ or ‘You can try this.’
“We had a conversation about pucks that are close to the post when he’s still out at the top of his crease, and how he can squeeze the post behind him with his feet so the puck never trickles in and they can’t bank it in.”
Never miss a local story.
Marcoux smiled, noting in Thursday’s practice that Khudobin properly squeezed the post and stopped a shot during the Canes’ power-play work.
“He’s a student of the game,” Marcoux said. “You want him to get the wins, but in the meantime you’re working on details and focusing on the process, not just the result.”
Khudobin, who will start Friday against the St. Louis Blues, has been getting good results of late. After making sporadic starts the first three months of the season as Cam Ward manned the nets, Khudobin will getting his fifth start in the past six games.
Once 0-8-2, Khudobin has won six straight decisions. In his last loss, Dec. 21 against the New York Rangers, the Canes were beaten 1-0.
“He did a good job of keeping his head up and playing,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “He deserved better. He’s given us good goaltending for a long period of time.”
It has turned into another strong January for Khudobin. A year ago, he was named the NHL’s first star of the month for January, tying a franchise record with 10 wins.
Khudobin, 28, finished last season with a 19-14-1 record, posting a 2.30 goals-against average and setting a franchise record with a .926 save percentage. He signed a two-year contract with Carolina late in the season and returned for preseason training camp believing he might be the team’s No. 1 goalie.
Neither Ward nor Khudobin was very sharp in the Canes’ 0-6-2 start, and Peters soon turned to Ward. Khudobin started three games in November and four in December, taking the 1-0 loss to the Rangers but two nights later beating the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in a shootout for his first victory.
“It’s always kind of hard,” Khudobin said. “I play one game, and I don’t play for another four. I play another game and then (out) for another four. It’s not easy, definitely.
“But at the same time, you always want the team to win, so that’s what you care about. You treat practices like games. When it’s your turn, you just have to go there and help your teammates get the ‘W.’ ”
The Canes (17-25-5) jumped to a 2-0 lead Tuesday before the Lightning cranked up the offensive pressure late in the first period. Khudobin allowed a goal in the first but made some big stops, and the Canes then never trailed in beating a team that was leading the NHL in scoring.
“He’s extremely competitive,” Canes captain Eric Staal said. “He wants to be in the net. You can tell when he does get that opportunity he’s battling at a high level.
“He’s an easygoing guy away from the rink, off the ice. But you get him out there, and he’s a real competitor.”
Peters has jokingly called Khudobin the “crazy Russian.” It’s just that goaltenders can be different, Peters said, and the guy known as “Dobby” is a free-spirited type.
Peters, with a smile, said he would leave Khudobin and Ward to Marcoux, adding, “I try not to micromanage.”
Marcoux said Khudobin has a lot of Evgeni Nabokov’s goaltending style in his game. The two are close friends, Marcoux said, and Nabokov – like Khudobin, born in Kazakhstan and now living in Russia – influenced the younger Khudobin.
Nabokov, a former Russian Olympian, spent much of his career with the San Jose Sharks and was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2008. He’s now with the Lightning and the backup to goalie Ben Bishop.
Nabokov had a good seat Tuesday at PNC Arena. He had a good chance to see his friend get another win.