Khabibulin's back situation is bleak

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:48 PM ET

It's looking more and more like Nikolai Khabibulin is done for the season.

The Oilers netminder was given an eight-week window to let the disc problem in his back heal on its own, and it's not.

Cortisone treatments that began three weeks ago were little, if no, help. He still isn't skating and is rarely even seen at the rink anymore,

"The window is not totally completed," said head coach Pat Quinn, who's had to start rookie Jeff Deslauriers 21 of the last 22 games. "They’re going to go right to the end."

Khabibulin's back went out on Nov. 21. If he's not showing progress six and a half weeks later, it seems unlikely his spine will make a late charge in the final days of the window.

"Obviously he has some decisions to make as to what the next steps are," said Quinn. "One of the next steps is surgery."

Khabibulin, who turns 37 next week, has wrestled with back problems before.

"Apparently he went through this window in Chicago and came back at playoff time," said Quinn. "That's where we are, we’re still waiting."

The Russian netminder signed a four-year, $15 million contract last summer.

TRIPPING OUT: Cancelling a mid-season trip to Palm Springs isn't a popular decision, but Quinn doesn't have time to worry about the vacation hopes of a last place team.

"I wasn't bothering measuring the emotion or the response," he said. "Nobody came to me and said 'You dirty rat.' I'm sure there's disappointment. It probably comes most from the wives, they were going to go on the trip as well."

Instead of the golf and shopping holiday, the Oilers will spend a four-day break in the schedule practising. Short term pain for long term gain, they hope.

"The players aren’t happy with (15th place), either," Quinn said. "They can understand from a coaching perspective why this decision was asked to be made."


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