Khabibulin starts for the Oilers

Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin during the Edmonton Oilers practice at Rexall Place in...

Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin during the Edmonton Oilers practice at Rexall Place in Edmonton on October 7th, 2011. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:30 PM ET

Nikolai Khabibulin is so happy to play he can even find the bright side in starting in a building where the Edmonton Oilers have lost 16 straight games.

“I tend to look positively at things,” grinned Khabibulin, who’ll get the nod in goal tonight when the Oilers visit the Minnesota Wild. “With each loss I think the chances of winning the next game are increasing. I’ve never seen streaks that never get snapped.”

The Oilers haven’t won in Minnesota since Jan. 16, 2007 and have been outscored 58-21 since then, so Khabibulin has his work cut out for him in his first start of the season.

“It has to stop somewhere,” he said of the drought. “Every time we come here and play I think it’s going to be the time, so hopefully tonight.”

This is first step in Khabibulin’s quest to prove he deserves at least half of the starts this season. With Devan Dubnyk getting the home opener, and playing very well in a 2-1 win, the 38-year-old veteran knows he has to be at his best.

“It’s an extra push, it has to bring the best out of me, a little extra pressure from within the team,” he said. “I like challenges and this is a good challenge.”

Head coach Tom Renney isn’t committing to either goalie. He says it’ll be up to them - prove you deserve more starts and you’ll get more starts.

“I won’t be surprised if it’s close to being even (for the first month),” he said. “I want to make sure guys can at least know they’ve been given a chance and there’s no excuses and then we’ll run with it.

“It’s not a free ride here/ We’re now in the business of winning hockey games.”

The WIld are going with Nik Backstrom, who’s won 14-straight home games against the Oilers.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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