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Khabibulin's Show - Tampa Tribune
By SCOTT CARTER
SUNRISE - They stood only feet apart Saturday morning in a ballroom at the Westin Diplomat Hotel. If the distance between them had been determined by their play this season, goaltenders Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Brodeur would have been farther apart.
As the Lightning's Khabibulin answered questions about starting for the Eastern Conference despite his recent slump, New Jersey's Brodeur was asked whether he felt he deserved to start this afternoon's All- Star Game at the Office Depot Center.
Brodeur has an NHL-leading 26 wins and six shutouts, but he finished second to Khabibulin in fan voting. Khabibulin, after opening the season with a career-long nine-game unbeaten streak, is 0-4-2 in his past six starts.
Brodeur said that's no reason for Khabibulin's first career All-Star start - his fourth appearance overall - to be questioned.
``There are a lot of different ways you can see it,'' Brodeur said. ``But guys who get voted in, they did something right somewhere to catch the eye of the people. Nik has been playing awesome early in the season and right on through. He is the reason why Tampa Bay is where they are right now.''
Khabibulin admits to being off his game of late. He makes no excuses, though he said he is unsure why has not been as sharp. He said he is doing the same things, practicing the same routine he did last year, when he kept the Lightning in most games with spectacular play at the net.
Last year's version of Khabibulin has been on display this season as well, but not nearly as often. In his last victory, Jan. 7 against Detroit, Khabibulin made 30 saves to beat the defending champions 1-0.
On the flip side, Khabibulin has been pulled from more games - six - before the All-Star break than all of last season, when he set franchise records for shutouts (seven), save percentage (.920) and goals-against average (2.36). In 44 games, Khabibulin is 18-19-6 with a 2.78 GAA, .09 above his career average.
While he made Lightning fans jump from their seats regularly a year ago, Khabibulin made the world take notice when he registered 20 saves in the third period of last year's All-Star Game in Los Angeles. He became only the fourth goaltender in the past 14 years to post a shutout period in All- Star competition. He made a splendid encore in the Olympics, leading Russia to the bronze medal in Salt Lake City.
Khabibulin did all the above after missing most of the 2000-01 season in a contract dispute with Phoenix.
``I think coming off of last year, after not playing for almost a year, that's a big accomplishment to be able to come back and be on top of the league once again,'' Brodeur said. ``Not many guys can do that.''
Khabibulin is trying to get back to that elite level. He knows he must for the Lightning to be serious playoff contenders.
``Whatever has been done is done,'' Khabibulin said. ``I will kind of start from scratch [after the break]. Sometimes you have a bad stretch and all of a sudden you kind of get out of it. I don't think I've ever done something differently; it just all of a sudden starts working.''
Rangers defenseman Tom Poti said if Tampa Bay fans are concerned about Khabibulin, they shouldn't be. He certainly won't be today when they are on the ice together.
``He has always been a great goalie,'' Poti said. ``He is definitely the reason his team in Tampa has been getting a lot of wins. The team feels really confident having him back there. He definitely deserves to be here and to be starting.''
The fans agreed. For that, Khabibulin is appreciative and would like nothing more than to put on a performance like last season's.
``This weekend is always fun,'' he said. ``It is definitely a big honor
to be selected by the fans. I'm pretty happy about it. I think this is
something that is very cool when not the league picks you, but the fans.
The fans all across North America, not only the Tampa fans.''
22 января. Николай Хабибуллин: В НХЛ дни рождения
отмечать не принято - Советский Спорт
12 декабря.Khabibulin blames himself for skid - St.
22 января. Николай Хабибуллин: В НХЛ дни рождения отмечать не принято - Советский Спорт
12 декабря.Khabibulin blames himself for skid - St. Petersburg Times