Stars must fill void left by Hatcher

Nikolai Khabibulin is still No. 1 in Tampa despite ending last season on the bench in favor of John Grahame.

Updated: September 15, 2003, 12:05 PM ET
By By Jim Wilkie | NHL Insider
NHL Insider continues our look at the most intriguing position battles to watch when training camps begin this week. Here is a look at the Southeast and Pacific divisions:

Southeast Division
Tampa Bay Lightning -- Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster never found veteran help for the defense he was looking for over the summer, so he's sure to make some changes on his blue line at some point during the season. Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich, Cory Sarich, Pavel Kubina, Jassen Cullimore make up the core of an underrated group that helped Tampa rank a respectable 12th in defense (2.56 goals against per game) last season, but Feaster would like to add a top-four blue-liner. In the meantime, veterans Nolan Pratt, Janne Laukkanen, Darren Rumble and Pascal Trepanier will compete with rookies Gerard Dicaire, Andreas Holmqvist and Jeremy Van Hoof for the final two spots.

In goal, Nikolai Khabibulin is still No. 1 despite ending last season's playoffs on the bench in favor of John Grahame. But the backup figures to give Khabibulin more relief than he's had in the past and head coach John Tortorella expects Grahame, a former starter with Boston, to provide some healthy competition for the 'Bulin Wall. The result should help the Lightning avoid any lulls last season that almost cost them a playoff spot, but expect trade rumors to swirl if Grahame appears more consistent than Khabibulin.