This time Khabibulin is hurt; Mike Smith skates
The last time we saw Nikolai Khabibulin play in Tampa, he was backstopping a Game 7 Stanley Cup-clinching victory over the Flames on June 7, 2004. Khabibulin already missed his first chance to play in Tampa with the Blackhawks in December 2005. Now, it appears he won't even make the trip for Tuesday's game at the St. Pete Times Forum because of a groin injury he apparently aggravated at Monday's practice.
It's quite a saga and one that merits re-visiting.
Khabibulin signed a four-year, $27-million free agent contract with the Blackhawks after winning the Cup with the Lightning. Remember, it came down to Tampa Bay keeping either Nik or Marty St. Louis? His first chance to play at the St. Pete Times Forum was Dec. 2, 2005, and apparently he was set to play until, as Khabibulin said on the day of the game, he spoke to then Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney and begged off because the distractions surrounding his return would ruin his concentration.
"I said it would be difficult to concentrate, probably," Khabibulin said at the time. "I don't think I have much to prove in this building. I think I've done pretty well here. Just come to the game and enjoy it, look in the stands and see what's going on."
Fast-forward to today and the news Khabibulin will not even make the trip. Geez, will we ever see this guy play here again?
Other stuff from Monday's practice: Goaltender Mike Smith (concussion) skated for about 15 minutes before practice and spent part of the time shooting the puck with a forward's stick. "He seems all right," goaltenders coach Cap Raeder said. "He's very disappointed, though. He's down because he can't play." ... Center Chris Gratton cleared waivers over the weekend but was not picked up by any team. This wasn't re-entry waivers it was regular waivers and it was done, presumably, because the Lightning believed another team was interested in picking him up. It obviously didn't happen. ... Karri Ramo will get his first start in net since he was pulled Feb. 3 against the Islanders. It could be the start of an important stretch for the 22-year-old Finn, who is looking for a new contract but has gone through two seasons in which he has played only 59 games combined. "I think he's overplaying pucks. He has to have a calmness to his game," coach Rick Tocchet said. "If he can harness his game that way, he can be a hell of a goaltender. I think he's one of the best athletic goalies in the game." ... The usual suspects did not practice; defenseman Paul Ranger (upper body), defenseman Marek Malik (lower body) and defenseman Matt Smaby (foot). ... Left wing David Koci filled in on the blue line. ... Tocchet did not like Monday's practice. "I didn't think we had a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "I can understand when you lose. There's not a lot to smile about, either. But you've got to come to work and you have to play for people, the young guys, your buddies, whatever. That's what you have to play for now."