Lightning sighting

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

The defending Stanley Cup winners won't visit Vancouver this season, but the goaltender who backstopped the Lightning to victory is here tonight.

Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to start for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Canucks at General Motors Place (7 p.m., CNKW/ pay-per-view).

The 32-year-old Russian joined the Blackhawks as a free agent in early August with a four-year, US$27 million deal. The so-called "Bhulin Wall" had a 16-7 record with a league-best five shutouts during Tampa's triumphant 2004 playoff drive. Khabibulin spent the lockout-cancelled 2004-2005 season playing 24 games for Ak Bars Kazan of the Russian Elite League.

He's not the only familiar face returning tonight. Ex-Canuck defenseman Adrian Aucoin was signed to a four-year, $16 million contract by rookie general manager Dale Tallon. Canucks traded Aucoin to Tampa Bay in February 2001 for goaltender Dan Cloutier. Original Canuck Tallon was Vancouver's first pick in the 1970 entry draft, taken second overall after the Buffalo Sabres won a coin toss and selected Gilbert Perrault. Tallon played the first three of his 10 NHL seasons for Vancouver, scoring 44 goals and adding 93 assists. He turns 55 tomorrow.

Phoenix Coyotes make their second trip to Vancouver Thursday, this time without Brett Hull (7 p.m., CKNW/Sportsnet). The future Hall of Famer shocked the hockey world Saturday when he retired. Hull, who played in the Oct. 5 season opener at GM Place, spent part of his youth in North Vancouver where he played for the Junior B North Shore Winter Club Flames.

The homestand concludes Saturday night when the Colorado Avalanche makes its first appearance here since Canuck Todd Bertuzzi's March 8, 2004 criminal assault on Av Steve Moore. Moore's future remains in doubt, but Colorado's roster includes ex-Canuck Brad May (7 p.m., CKNW/CBC).


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