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Tabaracci gets second chance with Lightning

By Cammy Clark - St. Petersburg Times
Nov 23, 1996

Tony Esposito once traded Rick Tabaracci.
Seven years ago, Esposito was Pittsburgh's general manager. Tabaracci was a 20-year-old prospect.
Esposito was hard-pressed to remember the details: "I know we wanted Andy McBain at the time. He was a 40-goal man. And Tabaracci was the key in the trade for them."
So Tabaracci went to Winnipeg. But when the Lightning needed an experienced goalie to help fill the gap until Daren Puppa returns from back surgery, Esposito didn't forget.
He made another deal, getting Tabaracci back.
"He's matured a lot," Esposito, the Lightning's director of hockey operations, said of Tabaracci, acquired Tuesday from Calgary for center Aaron Gavey. "He's a lot calmer. He was a kid then. Got nervous. Now he's a man."
Tabaracci is 27, only 22 months older than his new goaltending partner, Corey Schwab. But Tabaracci has played in 164 regular-season NHL games and 17 playoff games. Schwab has played in just 25 regular-season games (15 this season) and no playoff games.
"I'm not sure how the trade was being billed down here," said Tabaracci, who arrived from Calgary late Wednesday and practiced with his new team for the first time Thursday. "But in Canada they said they were looking for someone to shore up the goaltending a little as far as experience. I think it's a matter of a comfort level for them. They feel more comfortable having some experience than two rookies (Schwab and Derek Wilkinson) in the lineup."
Wilkinson was sent to Cleveland of the IHL Thursday. And despite Schwab's shutout Tuesday against Los Angeles, Tabaracci likely will be in goal Saturday night against Philadelphia at the Ice Palace.
"We didn't bring him here to sit the bench," coach Terry Crisp said after Tuesday's game. "We've got to see what he can do."
Crisp said Thursday having Tabaracci on board should help Schwab.
"We're hoping they will push each other," Crisp said. "We want to have the luxury of running one for a while. Then resting him and running the other."
Tabaracci was asked what he thought would happen when Puppa returns. He didn't want to touch that question with a 10-foot goalie stick. He just hopes to earn his place and work with Schwab, who was the organization's clear-cut No. 2 goalie and now likely has slipped to No. 3.
Tabaracci talked with Schwab more than 10 minutes after practice Thursday after everyone else had left the ice.
He wanted to let Schwab know he'd like to be partners, not enemies. "I'd hate to come in and detract from anything," Tabaracci said. "I'd like to come in and add."
Tabaracci is coming from a situation in Calgary where three was a crowd. The Flames had Tabaracci, Trevor Kidd (the Flames' No. 1 draft pick in 1990) and promising prospect Dwayne Roloson.
Tabaracci and Roloson tried to make the best of it. Kidd did not, complaining publicly.
"There are only two nets in practice," Kidd said at the beginning of the season. "Now I have two guys breathing down my neck."
"I've got along pretty well with every partner I've had, except Kidder," Tabaracci said. "Kidder is a little different guy. But aside from that, I've never had a problem.
"I meant that when I said that me and Schwabby can play together. We're on the same club. The biggest thing is not to have any rifts in the room. It's a tough situation for him."
This is Tabaracci's fifth NHL team (he played one game for Pittsburgh in 1988). He plans to watch video to see how his new teammates play. And his new teammates must adjust to his handling the puck.
"I handle it a lot," Tabaracci said. "I get to it as much as I can. I find it keeps the defenseman from getting rubbed through the glass."
Tabaracci has played with two of the Lightning's defenseman, Rudy Poeschek (taken off the injured list Thursday and expected to play Saturday) and Igor Ulanov.
"I was Igor's first roommate on the road (in Winnipeg) when he came over from Russia. And I played with Rudy in Moncton (the minors)."
Tabaracci also will have to get used to life without his trusted companion Rommel, a black and tan, 90-pound coon dog that was shipped to his parent's home in Toronto.
And there's the weather.
"I left Calgary and it was 20 below," Tabaracci said. "I got here and had to find my shorts. It took a while. But I think I can get used to it here just fine."

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