After playing behind a defense in Edmonton that ranked 19th in the NHL last season, goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made his debut Friday behind a Blackhawks defense that was first in the league, allowing barely 2 goals per game.
"It's not only the defense, it's the whole mentality," Khabibulin said, who spent four years with the Oilers. "We want to have the puck as much as possible so it's not as much shooting it off the boards and things like that. Guys like to have the puck and make plays. It takes a bit of getting used to, but as I've seen from the side it actually works."
Blackhawks game dayBlackhawks vs. Buffalo Sabres at the United Center, 7 p.m.
Radio: WGN-AM 720
The skinny: The Sabres still haven't won a game, coming to town 0-4-1 after losing 4-1 to Columbus on Thursday. The Hawks were 10-1-1 on the second night of back-to-back games last season. Corey Crawford is expected to oppose Ryan Miller.
Next: Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena, 6 p.m. Tuesday.
-- Tim Sassone
Against Tampa Bay last Saturday the Hawks only allowed 16 shots, none in the first period, making for a relatively easy night for Corey Crawford.
"Those are definitely not the easiest games to play," Khabibulin said. "My last preseason game was kind of like that, too. When you have the puck a lot and you spend a lot of time in that zone, the other team only gets so many shots.
"You try to stay in mode somehow and keep your focus and whenever the puck comes try to make the save."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was happy the schedule allowed Khabibulin to finally play.
"He's getting some work and that's something he's been looking for," Quenneville said.
It's only been four games, but replacing Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg on the third and fourth lines is proving to be a challenge for the Hawks and Joel Quenneville.
On Friday against the Islanders, Marcus Kruger skated at left wing on the third line with Brandon Saad moving to right wing with Andrew Shaw at center.
Joakim Nordstrom centered the fourth line for Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith.
"Obviously, we've got a couple different guys in the lineup there," Shaw said. "It's going to take a couple games to find some chemistry and see who works with who best. Joel and the coaching staff know what they're doing so we're just going to keep plugging away.
"There's a lot of shoes to fill, but a lot of guys are up to the challenge."
Patrick Sharp doesn't have a problem with how the third and fourth lines are playing.
"They've created offense, they protect the net well and I think they're doing just fine," Sharp said.
"Just trying some things," Quenneville said. "It's not that we don't like the way they're playing, but maybe we can get better."
Room to improve:
The Hawks came into Friday's game ranked last in the league in penalty killing, having allowed 5 power-play goals in nine chances.
"There's more shots getting through," Joel Quenneville said. "The ones that are getting through that are bothersome are the wrist shots. Those are the ones that seem to be going in on us. We should definitely be blocking those, whether it's the first layer or the second layer. The slappers, hopefully we're in the lanes and we can deny them the shot initially and they take another option.
"That's one area we have to get better, whether it's blocking the shot, whether it's the clear, whether it's the faceoff, loose pucks."
Marian Hossa said the Hawks are struggling moving as a unit killing penalties.