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Khabibulin returns to All-Star Game

By BRUCE LOWITT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

TAMPA -- Nikolai Khabibulin is going to the Feb. 2 NHL All-Star Game intent on giving the fans what they don't want.

"People come to see a lot of goals. There's not much defense," said the Lightning goalie, announced Saturday in fan balloting as the starter for the Eastern Conference. "When you go to these kinds of games as a goalie ... you don't expect to stop many shots."

A year ago, when it was the World against North America, the Russian-born Khabibulin entered the game in the third period with the World All-Stars trailing 5-3. He stopped all 20 shots; the World won 8-5.

"I don't think any goalie likes to get scored on, whether it's (the season or postseason), or the All-Star Game, whatever. Even summer hockey," he said.

This is Khabibulin's fourth All-Star Game but first as a starter. "I'm just happy that I'm going to go to the game (in Sunrise)," he said, "but when you're starting it's more prestigious, I guess. I think it's a pretty good accomplishment being chosen by the fans."

Lightning No. 2 goalie Kevin Hodson said Khabibulin is "our franchise player and our team kind of beats to his drum."

A year ago Khabibulin became just the fourth goalie in 14 seasons to shut out the opposition in a period.

Other East starters: Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux and Alexei Kovalev, Washington's Jaromir Jagr, Florida's Sandis Ozolinsh and Brian Leetch of the Rangers, who's injured and unlikely to play. West: Colorado's Rob Blake and Patrick Roy, Dallas' Mike Modano and Bill Guerin, Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and San Jose's Teemu Selanne.

-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.


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