GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (14-18-9-2) at Tampa Bay Lightning (20-15-6-1).
TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.
John Grahame is doing his best to erase his label as a backup goaltender.
Grahame and the Tampa Bay Lightning hope to extend their win streak to five
when they face the Carolina Hurricanes for the fourth time this season.
Grahame has served as Nikolai Khabibulin's backup since joining the
Lightning on Jan. 13, 2003, but has been the better of the two goalies lately.
Grahame allowed one goal for the fourth straight game -- all during the
longest road win streak in team history -- in a 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh on
Since the Lightning joined the NHL for the 1992-93 season, they had never
won more than three straight on the road. Their current four-game streak began
after losing 5-2 in Ottawa on Jan. 6, when Khabibulin surrendered five goals on
Grahame stopped 66 of 70 shots in wins over Montreal, New Jersey, the New
York Rangers and Pittsburgh to close the team's five-game road trip.
"When you're on that road that long, everyone wants to get home, but you
want to end on a positive note," Grahame said. "That was the big thing, to
try to stay focused and get through this last one."
With Khabibulin making $4.4 million this season, and the team holding a $6.5
million option for next season, rumors continue to circulate that the Lightning
may be interested in dealing Khabibulin.
While Khabibulin has a .500 record (11-11-2) with a 2.16 goals-against
average, Grahame is 9-5-1 with a 1.58 GAA.
"When he's playing, it's tough because obviously you think you should be
playing all the time but when you have a goaltender like that, it justifies it
a little bit," Grahame said. "With our situation, I think with the respect
that I have for him and I think he's got a little bit for me, it's not a big
The Lightning will have first-line center Vincent Lecavalier back in the
lineup Thursday after he served a one-game suspension for kicking the Rangers'
Darius Kasparaitis on Sunday.
Carolina played at home for the eighth time in nine games Sunday and settled
for a 2-2 tie against Ottawa, as Erik Cole scored with 3:29 left in regulation.
Kevin Weekes stopped 38 shots and rookie Eric Staal also scored for the
Hurricanes, the NHL's worst offensive team with 76 goals in 43 games.
"We need points," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "We need lots of
points. We need wins. The fact that we got a point is good in the standings."
The Hurricanes are 6-6-1 since Laviolette replaced Paul Maurice despite
scoring more than two goals just once in that span.