Lecavalier, St. Louis hope Lightning fans salute Khabibulin


In one of those weird twists of fate resulting from a conference change and some wacky scheduling, Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin will play in Tampa Bay on Thursday for the first time since leading the Lightning to victory in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

The 2004 Stanley Cup finals.

Yeah, he hasn’t played in Tampa in eight years.

More, from Damien Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times:

It’s amazing Khabibulin has gone eight years without playing in Tampa. Part of that is he has spent those years with the Blackhawks and Oilers, teams that have not come to town that often. The first time the Blackhawks came to Tampa during the 2005-06 season after Khabibulin signed with them as a free agent, coach Trent Yawney decided to not play Khabibulin, saying it would be too much of a distraction. Two other times, once with Chicago and once with Edmonton, Khabibulin was injured.

He did, though, did beat the Lightning in November 2007, in Chicago, with 21 saves in a 5-1 win; and in December 2010, in Edmonton, with 38 saves in a 4-3 shootout win.

A few things have happened to the Lightning since Khabibulin last played in Tampa Bay.

— The arena changed names (from the St. Petersburg Times Forum to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.)

— The Lightning have had four head coaches (John Tortorella, Barry Melrose, Rick Tocchet, Guy Boucher.)

— Only two members of the 2004 Cup-winning team remain: Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

Speaking of Vinny and Marty, they’re hopeful Bolts fans will welcome Khabibulin back in style.

“I hope they give him an ovation,” St. Louis said. “I’d clap.

“I appreciate that year [2004] so much with what we’ve gone through last year, getting this far and not winning it, and this year. It seems so long ago and I owe a lot of that to Habby.”

Lecavalier was also full of praise for his former goalie.

“He’s a big part of Tampa and its history with the Lightning,” Lecavalier said. “He definitely deserves [applause].

“He’s one of those goalies that stole games. I hope the fans give him a nice welcome back. He was a huge part of our team. He’s a great goaltender and a great guy. I think the fans definitely will treat him well.”