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9 октября 2002 года.
New territory. Nikolai Khabibulin is trying to help himself by starting attacks via his puck-handling. -  St. Petersburg Times


TAMPA -- Have you ever heard a goaltender giggle ... during a game?

Lightning goaltenders coach Jeff Reese said Tampa Bay goalie Nikolai Khabibulin might be doing just that when he leaves the net to play the puck and send a little chip pass to one of his defensemen.

"He's probably giggling inside of his mask he's enjoying it so much," Reese said.

Reese, of course, was exaggerating to make a point, and it should be noted Khabibulin denied giggling during games. Still, when asked about his newly refined expertise playing the puck, the goalie did crack a smile.

"I have fun," Khabibulin said after Tuesday's practice at the St. Pete Times Forum. "I go out and make a little play and it speeds up the breakout. If I make a clean, crisp pass, it makes me feel good. But I'm not laughing."

Khabibulin roamed farther from the net and with more confidence during the preseason than he did last season. His passes were usually true and giveaways were few.

What a comfort for the Lightning (as Martin Brodeur is for the Devils) to know Khabibulin can pass the puck, even past onrushing opponents, to an open man who can quickly start a rush and take the play out of the Tampa Bay zone.

Quite a difference from last season, especially early, when Khabibulin had a tendency to fire the puck around the boards only to see it land on an opponent's stick.

It was one of the few flaws Khabibulin showed during a season in which he set a team record with seven shutouts and whose .920 save percentage was tied for fifth in the league.

"He really has worked hard at it," Reese said. "You don't have to fire the puck hard or high. You just need little outlet passes that put the puck in the right spot. He put the work in. He has the confidence and the taste for it."

It was an acquired taste.

Khabibulin, 29, said his development as a goalie in his native Russia did not include much puck-handling. Because of the larger, international ice, Khabibulin said it was not practical to leave the net unattended to try to field the puck.

He said puck-handling also wasn't stressed during his five seasons with Winnipeg/Phoenix.

Reese made a point of it almost as soon as Khabibulin was traded to the Lightning in March 2001. Most of the work is done before Tampa Bay takes the ice for practice.

"We worked on it a lot during last year," Khabibulin said. "You want to make little plays to the defense so they don't have to battle for the puck and can make a quick play. It stops them from being hit and they can avoid the forecheck."

Khabibulin also flipped a puck high and out of the Lightning zone to short-circuit a Maple Leafs surge during Saturday's preseason finale.

"You can never get overconfident with it," Khabibulin said. "If you leave the net, and if you screw up, the net is wide open. You have to be careful with it and make sure you make 100 percent plays, and just don't overdo it."

Other perks that come from being handy with the stick:

Khabibulin said the quicker the puck leaves the Lightning zone, the fewer shots he has to face. Because fewer shots means less action for the goalie, who plays better when he's busy, working the puck keeps him focused and into the game.

A good thing for the Lightning, which is counting on Khabibulin to help lead it to its first playoff appearance in seven years.

"I do have a good feeling," he said. "We have more experience. We have the same coaches, which is very important. It is our goal to make the playoffs. At this time of year every team has zero points, so everybody is even.

"I don't like to predict, but if we play as a team every night, and there are no injuries, I think we're going to be successful."

There was no giggling, but there definitely was a smile. 

Страничка Николая Хабибулина на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


11 октября. Показатели Хабибулина продолжают подать. 

7 октября. Воробьев помог Хабибулину одержать первую победу в составе «Блэкхаукс». 

23 сентября. Хабибулин пока не показывает свой лучшей игры. 

5 августа. Хабибулин перебирается в Чикаго. 

29 марта. Хабибулин и Лекавалиер в центре внимания прессы Тампы. 

2 февраля. Николай Хабибулин: "Думать в воротах - непозволительная роскошь" - Спорт-Экспресс

22 ноября. Афанасенков против Хабибулина // "Спорт-Экспресс"

23 октября. Хабибулин и Каспарайтис - в "Ак Барсе" - "Спорт-Экспресс"


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