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Khabibulin puts team first - St. Petersburg Times
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
TAMPA -- If Nikolai Khabibulin was feeling frustrations beyond those of an athlete who would rather not be on the bench, he wasn't letting on.
In fact, the Lightning goaltender, who did not start Tuesday for a third consecutive game, understood coach John Tortorella's decision to go with John Grahame in one of the season's biggest games.
"Like all athletes you want to play," Khabibulin said. "But at the same time, John has been good and won a few games and deserves a chance to play."
That chance fizzled during a 5-1 loss to the Capitals. Grahame lasted until 9:26 into the second period, allowing four goals on 11 shots.
Khabibulin played well in relief, stopping 11 of 12. And considering how well he played in Sunday's All-Star Game, he could start Thursday against the Maple Leafs.
Has Khabibulin, who is winless in six starts and has one victory in his past 10, turned a corner?
"I hope so," he said. "I'm trying to put less pressure on myself and just go in and have some fun. I think everything else is there."
Grahame had been on fire since being acquired from the Bruins for a fourth-round draft pick. Entering Tuesday he was 4-1-0 in six games with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.
Still, a Khabibulin resurgence will be welcome.
"For us to be thinking of staying in the (playoff) hunt, we have to get on the back of Nikolai Khabibulin, and when that comes about we're jumping on," Tortorella said.
Will it happen against the Maple Leafs? Even if it does, Khabibulin will have to earn subsequent starts.
"We're going to go with the people who can help us win on that particular night," Tortorella said. "Every decision is made for the best of the team."
Khabibulin has made the best of the situation.
"It gives me some time to refocus and work in practice," he said. "I'm
thinking everything happens for a reason. This is happening, and that means
I'll get more time in practice to get my timing and everything back. Eventually,
I'm going to go in there and play good."
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