It was a tweak that Nikolai Khabibulin and the Edmonton Oilers did not want to become a tear.
So despite the fact the Oilers goaltender turned aside 15 of the 17 first-period shots he faced Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks, Khabibulin made way for Devan Dubnyk in the second.
“It’s not too bad, I felt it early in the game, about two or three minutes in,” Khabibulin said. “I kept playing and in the intermission, I went to the trainers and told them, and they decided to pull me out.
“At first it was tight, but then the pain started to get a little sharper. I probably could have finished the game, but I think, along with the trainers, it would have been better off not to push it at that point.”
Khabibulin is expected to be out for a week-to-10 days with the injury. The Oilers have called up Yann Danis from their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City to take his place.
“For goalies, groins are delicate, but it doesn’t feel too bad,” Khabibulin said. “I’ve had groin injuries in the past, but this one doesn’t feel too bad. I can’t really remember a particular play that caused it. It just kind of showed up. I’ll take a few days off the ice and hopefully I won’t miss too much time.”
The Oilers would be well served to be particularly cautious with Khabibulin, who has been the talk of trade speculation leading up to the Feb. 27 deadline.
Khabibulin has one year left on his contact after this season, but could be an asset for a team needing goaltending insurance heading into the post-season.
For the Oilers, the post-season is a ship that has long since sailed.
“It’s always whatever happens, happens, but I like it here and even though the results are not there again this year, I think we’re on the right track,” Khabibulin said. “I think this team could be very good in the years to come and I want to be part of it.”
Khabibulin has not seen playoff hockey since signing a four-year, free-agent deal with the Oilers back in 2009.
After a pair of sub-par years with the club, Khabibulin has resurged this season and would be an attractive addition to a playoff-bound club.
Heading to a cup contender wouldn’t be a bad thing for Khabibulin either.
“For any athlete you want to play games that mean something,” he said. “It would be nice to be in the playoffs, but having said that, I like this team, I want to see this team succeed and when it happens, I want to be a part of it.”
In Khabibulin’s absence, Dubnyk is expected to get the bulk of the work as the Oilers return to host the Philadelphia Flyers and Phoenix Coyotes after their encounter with the Calgary Flames Tuesday.
“It’s always unfortunate when there’s an injury,” Dubnyk said. “But, it’s an opportunity to play some games in a row and try to get us going on a bit of a roll. It’s exciting for me.”
Dubnyk gave up three goals on 14 shots in relief of Khabibulin in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Canucks.
“He told me at the first TV timeout that it was bugging him at bit,” Dubnyk said. “I figured at that point he was going to finish the first period. I think if it was really bugging him, he would have left the net. So I just started preparing to go, right after the first I geared down and got on the bike to get the legs going a little bit.”