Despite the spelling, the Kazakhstan native's name doesn't begin with a hard K sound. Instead, when spoken it sounds like it begins with a W. Well, in theory anyway. That hasn't been the case too often so far in the netminder's brief stay in Boston.
"There's been lots of people saying it 'kuh-DOH-bihn.' I don't really mind, but actually the right way is 'who-DOH-bihn,'" Khudobin said after practice Friday at the Garden. "Yesterday I heard probably four different ways to pronounce my name."
It doesn't help that even the Bruins' own media guide lists the pronunciation incorrectly as "kuh-DOH-bihn." That's not the worst Khudobin has heard though.
"Could-a-been," Khudobin said with a laugh when asked for the worst butchering of his name he's heard so far. "I don't know, it's way off."
Khudobin could-a-been a contender for more playing time earlier this season. After being acquired from Minnesota's system at the trade deadline last year, Khudobin was re-signed to a two-year deal this summer as insurance behind Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask. But when Rask was injured early in March, Khudobin was unable to play himself with a wrist injury suffered shooting a puck in a game down in Providence.
The Bruins were forced to look to Europe, signing veteran Marty Turco as a stopgap. Rather than getting frustrated at the missed opportunity, Khudobin kept working, and eventually earned a call-up to Boston after his wrist healed.
"I wasn't down, I wasn't disappointed," Khudobin said. "I just tried to recover as soon as possible and get ready for these games and the practices and get ready for when I could play. That's all I could do."
Khudobin's perseverance paid off when he finally got in his first game with Boston on Thursday. And it was worth the wait, as he stopped 44 of the 45 shots he faced in a 3-1 win in Ottawa.
Khudobin's success may have surprised some, but it wasn't a shock to a guy who knows a little something about goaltending.
"I'm not surprised," Thomas said. "I saw him practice with us last year and I got to see him earlier this year. I like the way he plays. I like his style. There's some similarities to the way he approaches the game to me. And knowing what his record was before in Minnesota, I wasn't too surprised. I was happy for him."
Khudobin had put up good numbers in his brief stints with the Wild, going 4-1-0 with a 1.40 GAA and .955 save percentage in six games. That experience, plus the time he's spending now in Boston, could come in handy. Khudobin will likely have to back up Thomas to start the playoffs as Rask is still recovering from his injury and Turco is not eligible for postseason play because he was signed after the trade deadline.
Thomas was asked if it was comforting to know that Khudobin could be a capable fill-in if needed.
"That's nice, but let's hope we never need him," Thomas joked.
Thomas may be a little territorial about his playing time in the playoffs, which he's anxiously awaiting. "It's about time for the real fun to begin," he noted after Friday's practice. But all the Bruins have gone out of their way to make sure Khudobin is part of that fun too, just as they did last year when he practiced with the team during its Cup run.
"It was good," Khudobin said. "I knew the guys from last year, which helped me when I came up here. There wasn't lots of new things. I know the guys. It's easier, but it wasn't really difficult last year. When I came in everybody came to me and helped me. I knew everybody from the TV, watching the games and stuff like that. But when I came here everybody came up to me and it was really a warm welcome."
And while Thomas doesn't plan on letting anyone else near his crease in the playoffs, Khudobin does hope to get in more games with the Bruins at some point. After all, how else is he going to get people to learn how to say his name correctly?
"The more I'm going to play here, the more they're going to need to know my name," Khudobin said. "I just have to keep playing, and they'll have to know my name."
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