The Carolina Hurricanes have some holes throughout their lineup, but goaltending was one of the few surprising bright spots last season, mainly because of unheralded Russian backup Anton Khudobin. In 57 NHL games played, Khudobin has averaged an above-average .928 save percentage while mostly playing backup duty. If you ask him though, Khudobin believes he’s ready to assume a starter’s role in an NHL crease.
In a recent interview with The Hockey Writers, Anton Khudobin discussed the ups and downs of last season, which saw him struggle with injuries despite the strong numbers. “I think I played fairly well,” Khudobin said. “It would have been great if I could play about fifty games, but I didn’t manage to do it as the regular season ended.”
Of course, if Khudobin is playing fifty games, he’s posting starter numbers, right? That’s how the Russian netminder feels, despite the fact that most of his games came when starter Cam Ward was injured.
It’s hard to say what was more important, if Ward’s injury or my game. But probably my game, because even if Ward wouldn’t get injured and I wouldn’t play that way, they wouldn’t play me that often. So, maybe it was all this put together. I was injured myself earlier, and some other guys stepped up and played well. Maybe those times I was unlucky. But this time it was the other way around. Injuries never are a good situation for any player, but all went that way.
Expect a full-fledged goaltender competition in Carolina not just this year, but next year as well. Both longtime starter Cam Ward and Khudobin are under contract for the next two seasons with an eye toward an extension beyond then. On a team desperate to end a five year playoff drought, it will the best man who wins first and foremost in Raleigh. For now, Anton Khudobin believes he’s that man.