The Chicago Blackhawks had to scramble a bit back in November when goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin suffered a lower body injury in a game against the Nashville Predators. Shortly after the injury, Khabibulin was placed on the injured reserve list, and Antti Raanta was called upon to take his place on the roster.
On Tuesday, the team announced that Khabibulin had undergone successful surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.
"Nikolai underwent surgery today on the right shoulder," said team physician Dr. Michael Terry. "He had a rotator cuff injury which was becoming increasingly symptomatic that we repaired. The procedure went very well and I anticipate a full recovery. He should be able to return to hockey in four to five months."
The decision to operate on Khabibulin's shoulder likely means that his time with the Blackhawks is at an end. The four to five month timetable would place his return some time during the playoffs, and it's unlikely that he will be put back on the active roster in that kind of situation.
Also, the timing of this surgery also suggests that the lower body ailment that Khabibulin was suffering from isn't healing quickly at all, thus confirming suspicions that it was a long-term injury.
At any rate, Raanta will likely continue on as Crawford's back-up for the remainder of the season, although if he isn't seeing enough ice time the Blackhawks could conceivably want him to start more games in the AHL and swap him out for Jason LaBarbera, who was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs last week.