By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2001
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Jay Grossman, agent for Coyotes goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, said late Friday night that his client sees "a number of advantages" to playing for the Lightning.
And Tampa Bay president Ron Campbell said, "We're going to give it the best shot we possibly can."
Campbell met with Khabibulin on Thursday, and Grossman continued discussions Friday with Lightning general manager Rick Dudley and assistant general manager Jay Feaster.
The Lightning is considered the front-runner in the Khabibulin sweepstakes, which includes seven other teams, with the most ardent challenges coming from the Rangers, Blackhawks and Thrashers.
Campbell said the meeting was a good way for the 28-year-old goaltender, who is sitting out his second consecutive season because of a contract dispute, to understand the Lightning's long-term plan.
"It allowed us an opportunity to explain what is going on in Tampa Bay," Campbell said from Phoenix as the Coyotes played the Red Wings. "If you just look at it from a distance and see the record, you may not think it's a desirable place to play."
Grossman said he told Khabibulin one advantage is Dudley. "I've dealt with Rick and I know he's a guy that works hard and builds the right kind of team," Grossman said.
Grossman said Khabibulin also likes the idea of having his 8-year-old daughter, Sasha, a budding tennis star, play at Saddlebrook.
"I was very impressed by him," Campbell said of Khabibulin, who has sought a three-year, $12-million deal from the Coyotes. "His head is screwed on straight and is a very positive guy."
Campbell said Dudley is positive Khabibulin is the right fit for the Lightning.
"Rick has been working a long time trying to make a deal that works," Campbell said. "He convinced everyone that this was a great risk to take and go after. If it comes to fruition, we don't know. We're going to give it the best shot we possibly can."
WHEN/WHERE: 7; Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.
TV/RADIO: Sunshine Network; WDAE-AM 620.
THE LOWDOWN: Lightning F Stan Drulia was put on injured reserve with a strained back sustained in Thursday night's loss to the Bruins. ... F Gordie Dwyer was recalled from the IHL's Detroit Vipers. ... With Tampa Bay facing the Devils on Sunday, don't be surprised to see Wade Flaherty start in goal for the Lightning tonight against his former team. ... Islanders D Roman Hamrlik, a former Lightning, has three goals, seven assists in his past seven games. ... New York RW Brad Isbister is second on the team with 18 goals, but hasn't scored in nine games. ... The Lightning has a league-low 41 points, one behind the Islanders. ... The Islanders have the NHL's worst home record at 11-21-1-1. The Lightning has the league's worst road record at 4-25-3-3. ... New York has lost three straight and is 3-9-0-1 in its past 13 games. Tampa Bay has lost two straight and nine of its past 11. ... This is the last of four meetings between the teams. The Lightning is 1-1-1. ... The Lightning leads the series 19-16-3 and is 9-8-1 at Nassau Coliseum. -- Compiled by Damian Cristodero.