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Player of week: Khabibulin

Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin's three consecutive victories, 1.63 goals-against average and .950 save percentage earned him NHL player of the week honors Monday.

Khabibulin made 34 saves in a 4-2 win Nov. 11 over Phoenix, 27 Friday to beat San Jose 4-2 and 35 Sunday at Carolina in the 2-1 overtime victory that kept the Lightning first in the Southeast. He has started 17 of 18 and leads goalies in wins at 11-4-2.

NICE PROBLEM: There was a time it didn't seem to matter which Lightning defenseman was a healthy scratch. Now picking the six best of seven isn't easy.

"This is something that hasn't gone on around here before," coach John Tortorella said. "I look at Nolan Pratt as a great example. He sat for 13 games (before suiting up) and was probably our best defenseman (Sunday). It was killing him that he wasn't in. But he worked at his game and has not allowed us to take him out. It's a healthy situation for a hockey club, and when players are upset (at being benched) I think that's healthy, too."

Brad Lukowich sat out Sunday. "It wasn't that he played poorly," Tortorella said. "We just felt that out of the six (in Friday's game), the five other guys played a little bit better."

Defenseman Jassen Cullimore was penalized four times Sunday. "I'm not going to say anything to Jassen about the penalties," Tortorella said. "I'd like to say something else about them to other people. Three of them weren't even penalties."

HODSON ALMOST READY: No. 2 goalie Kevin Hodson missed Sunday's game with a groin strain. "Hopefully I'll be ready to skate (today) and see how it goes, or Wednesday for sure. It's just a matter of making sure it's 100 percent and going from there."

HE SAID IT: After Sunday's game, Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said, "We outplayed that team. We outhit them and outworked them for 53 minutes. We just didn't finish. Then they steal the game."

"I guess I picked up the wrong tape," Tortorella said.

_ BRUCE LOWITT

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