Chances are, Sabres goaltender Patrick Lalime will be playing his final game at Mellon Arena tonight.
As most of us know, Lalime, who is sitting on 199 career wins, began his career with the Penguins and had a debut unlike any rookie in NHL history. In 1996-97, he set an NHL record for longest unbeaten streak to star an NHL career by going 14-0-2 in his first 16 games.
Lalime's first win of his streak, and career, came in a 5-3 comeback road win against the Capitals, Dec. 6. He relieved Ken Wregget at the start of the second period and made 16 saves on 17 shots.
Lalime would finish with a 21-12-2, 2.94 goals against average and .913 save percentage that season. The following offseason was pretty dramatic for the Penguins. Mario Lemieux retired. Ron Francis became captain. Kevin Constantine was hired as head coach. And Lalime, a restricted free agent, began a hold out which would prevent him from ever suiting up for the Penguins again.
Lalime would sign with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the IHL and play out the season in that outpost. His right were traded to the Mighty Ducks at the 1998 trade deadline in exchange for Sean Pronger. He never dressed for the Mighy Duck and spent the entire season with the Kansas City Blades of the IHL. In the 1999 offseason, he was traded to Ottawa where he would have his greatest success in the NHL.
He would spend parts of five seasons mostly as a starter in Ottawa. The Senators made the postseason each of those seasons. In 2003, he was selected to his only All-Star Game. In the 2004 offseason, he was dealt to the Blues. Since then, he has also played with the Blackhawks and has served as Ryan Miller's backup in Buffalo for the past two seasons.
He chatted today about his success with the Sabres and his past with the Penguins.
On having two strong outings against the Penguins this season:
"I don’t know. Obviously a big part is what the guys are doing in front of me. We know they have some very skilled players. We just got to make sure we don’t give them time and space to do what they want."
On playing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin:
"You just look at their stick basically. You know when they’re coming down with it. You just got to be aware of what’s around. What’s open."
On getting one last start at Mellon Arena:
"Of course. It’s always nice. I had so many good memories here. Personally I still enjoy the building a lot. Just great memories here."
Favorite memory of his rookie season:
"Players I played with. Playing with a guy like Mario (Lemieux), (Jaromir) Jagr, Ronnie Francis just to name a few. The city here is a good place to play hockey. The fans are great and I totally enjoyed."
On his contract dispute which ended his Penguins career:
"Of course, I loved it here my first year. There was a lot of stuff that was going on at the time. You can’t look back and just say ‘I wish this or that.’ That’s the way it happened. It’s been very good for me. Of course at the beginning, I wish it would’ve been different."
(Photo: Photobucket; David Duprey/Associated Press)