Russian Ice Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak says he's interested in Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin for the world championship in Slovakia this spring, but the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie may hear a "Nyet" from Khabibulin.
"Really? Nobody has talked to me. I have never played in the world championship. Not once," said Khabibulin.
He has seldom answered the call to play for his country. "This is news to me."
Khabibulin, who won his first game in two months Tuesday with some stellar work to beat the Dallas Stars, has a mixed international past. He won a bronze for Russia in Salt Lake City in 2002 as one of their netminders but in 1992 in at the Olympics in Albertville, France, head coach Viktor Tikhonov tried to take Khabibulin's gold medal for himself when Khabibulin was the third goalie on the Unified Team, made up of players from former Soviet republics. Khabibulin was on the depth chart behind one-time Oiler Mikhail Shtalenkov and former Calgary draft pick Andrei Trefilov. Eventually he got the gold, but only after Tikhonov's power play turned into a PR disaster.
Khabibulin, who turned 38 last month, hasn't played for Russia since 2002, even though he has been asked. He didn't take part in the Russian pre-Olympic training camp well before the Games in Vancouver last year, making it known he wasn't interested in playing for them.
Khabibulin would seem well down the list of possible netminders based on his play this year (9-25-2 record, and a 3.37 goals-against average) but Evgeni Nabokov hasn't played since leaving St. Petersburg in the Kontinental League, then balked at playing for the New York Islanders last month when they claimed him off waivers after Detroit had signed him. Ilya Bryzgalov of the Phoenix Coyotes, Semyon Varlamov of the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers rookie Sergei Bobrovsky could all be NHL playoff goalies and aren't on Tretiak's radar, although the Coyotes aren't a cinch to make the post-season, so Bryzgalov could be in the picture if they don't make it in the crowded Western Conference.
Tretiak wants Oilers Khabibulin for Russian team
Edmonton Journal | Feb 17