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Blackhawks-Lightning Preview @NHLdotcom
Blackhawks-Lightning Preview

GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (10-14-0) at Tampa Bay Lightning (14-10-3).

TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin received his Stanley Cup ring and will have a spot on the bench as he returns to Tampa for the first time since leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup title.

Khabibulin, who went 16-7-0 while posting a 1.77 goals-against average and five shutouts during the Lightning's postseason run to their first-ever championship, received his Stanley Cup ring at the Friday morning skatearound.

Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney then announced his decision to play Craig Anderson, allowing Khabibulin a chance to enjoy the day off in a place where he holds special memories.

"It was my decision not to play him," Yawney said. "I think it's too early to start playing people in back to back games. The other thing is, from my standpoint, I want him to enjoy where he played his last game.

Khabibulin, who spent four seasons with Tampa Bay before signing a $27 million, four-year contract with Chicago on Aug. 5, has no problems with Yawney's decision.

"It's probably the right thing to do," Khabibulin said. "Obviously it would be hard to keep the focus today, and we have a game (Saturday). I agree with their decision. It's not a big deal."

Khabibulin's replacement, John Grahame, has been even better of late, winning six straight decisions while giving up 11 goals.

"We have been rolling along as a team," Grahame said after Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Toronto.

Tampa Bay has won seven of its last nine, and Martin St. Louis is riding a three-game points streak with two goals and two assists. Center Brad Richards has at least one point in 10 of his last 11 games, recording four goals and eight assists during that stretch.

The Lightning have scored four of their last six goals on the power play, while the Blackhawks have allowed the most power-play opportunities in the NHL with 197.

Chicago has been shorthanded 25 times in the past three games, but has only yielded one goal in that span.

The Blackhawks scored three power-play goals in a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night, snapping a three-game losing streak. Chicago managed only four goals during its skid.

Kyle Calder scored twice, extending his points streak to seven games. He has three goals and eight assists during that span. Linemate Mark Bell has a seven-game scoring streak, with eight goals and five assists.

"We're reading off each other pretty well," Calder said. "We've played together nearly five years now and we know each other."

The Blackhawks have won seven of their last nine meetings with the Lightning.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 1): Blackhawks - 20 points, 3rd place, 18 PB, Central Division. Lightning - 31 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Bell, 10 goals and 20 points; Calder and Tyler Arnason, 12 assists; Matthew Barnaby, 64 PIM. Lightning - Vaclav Prospal and Fredrik Modin, 13 goals; Prospal, 20 assists and 33 points; Pavel Kubina, 46 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 1): Blackhawks - Power play: 14.8 percent (22 for 148), 24th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (162 for 197), 17th (tied). Lightning - Power play: 14.1 percent (23 for 163), 26th. Penalty killing: 84.3 percent (113 for 134), 9th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Khabibulin (8-13-0, 0 SO, 3.26 GAA); Anderson (2-1-0, 0, 4.55). Lightning - Grahame (11-8-1, 1, 2.69); Sean Burke (3-1-2, 0, 2.77).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 1-0-0.

LAST MEETING: March 3, 2004; Lightning 5-3. At Chicago, Vincent Lecavalier, Cory Sarich and Ruslan Fedotenko each had a goal and an assist, and Brad Richards scored an empty netter with 13.5 seconds left for Tampa Bay.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 5-10-0 on the road; Lightning - 7-5-1 at home.

Associated Press
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