Nikolai Khabibulin, the Edmonton Oilers rejuvenated goaltender, has become a curiosity of sorts, dusting off a game that hasn’t been in vogue since he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04.
He was 31-years-old back then, not 38, and he wasn’t coming off the kind of season he had in 2010-11.
But written off as a goaltender past his prime, Khabibulin is still keeping company with the NHL’s leaders.
Just don’t ask him about the rave reviews he has been receiving.
“I don’t pay attention to any of it,” he said. “I haven’t gone on the Internet. I haven’t read any papers. I haven’t even gone to NHL.com.
“The first couple of years I was in the league, I would go through the stats, but then you are shifting your focus on the wrong things. You don’t need to know that a shooter has 60 points in 50 games. You just need to know he’s good and that you have to be ready.
“As far as having a great save percentage, well, then you start to focus on that instead of what you actually have to do to get there. I really stopped paying attention to all that.
“Plus we’re just 13 games in. Things can change drastically this time of the year. You have a couple of bad games and you’re just normal.
“I’ve seen it so many times. Guys will start out with 15 points in 10 games then they finish the season with 35. How good is that? I mean if it stays this way, great.
“If somehow it starts changing, then I’m not going to be thinking what if. I don’t want to know.”
The veteran, who got the night off against the Phoenix Coyotes so Devan Dubnyk could get in a game, will be back on the job Tuesday when the Oilers play the Montreal Canadiens.
He’ll tote his staggering stats –— .98 goals-against average, .963 save percentage and two shutouts — and do what he can to get the team back in the win column.
Khabibulin has not lost a game in regulation this season. At 6-0-2, he’s fifth in the win category.
“I think more about these things when things are not going well,” he said. “That bugs me more.”