TAMPA, Fla. — Nikolai Khabibulin will start against his former team, and Michal Rozsival will be back in the lineup when the Chicago Blackhawks face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
It will only be Khabibulin’s second start in Tampa since he was traded from the Bolts after leading them to their only Stanley Cup in 2003-04. For his career, Khabibulin is 4-3-1 against Tampa Bay with a 1.84 goals-against average.
Khabibulin always enjoys coming back to Tampa, where the Lightning clinched that Cup on home ice in June of 2004.
"This is where it all happened,” he said. “I liked it when I was here. I had such a great experience here. Every time I’m coming back, whether I play or not, it’s pretty special. It’ll be the same tonight.”
Coach Joel Quenneville wanted to get Khabibulin a start on this Florida trip, and it seemed appropriate that it would be against the Lightning. Tampa Bay captain Martin St. Louis remembers how vital Khabibulin was to that Cup-winning team.
“It wasn’t just that season. His time here, he was just the backbone of our team, really,” St. Louis said. “Without Khabby, we’re not celebrating the Stanley Cup. A good team always has a pretty good goaltender, and he was all that for us. He won us some games that we probably didn’t deserve and allowed us to keep rolling and feeling good about ourselves. That carried a lot. Khabby was everything to the team.”
As for facing Khabibulin tonight, St. Louis said, “I hope he’s nice to me, and I expect him to be on top of his game, no doubt.”
Rozsival is back in tonight after Sheldon Brookbank played in that sixth defenseman’s spot against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.