Evegni Nabokov of the New York Islanders is a pretty candid guy.
Ask him about Ilya Kovalchuk retiring from the NHL in favor of playing in the KHL, and he says: “Those who condemn Kovalchuk’s action are simply stupid people.”
Ask him about heading to the KHL himself, and Nabby says: “Do you think, given that I went back to the NHL for family reasons, after just two years I would seriously talk about returning to Russia?”
So, uh, that’s a “no” then?
His candor extends to his place on Russia’s Olympic team for the Sochi 2014 Games. One assumes Sergei Bobrovsky will be the starter. One assumes Semyon Varlamov will get one of the other roster spots. One assumes Ilya Bryzgalov will not be on the team, because he wasn’t invited to Russia’s Olympic camp and because if he didn’t have the mental toughness to start the Winter Classic in Philly for the Flyers, how is he going to start for Russia in Sochi?
That leaves one spot open, and one assumes the 38-year-old veteran Nabokov could land it with a good start for the Islanders this season. Just don’t assume that he’ll be going as a backup, because Evgeni Nabokov doesn’t appreciate your assumptions.
R-Sport: Are you ready to go to the Olympics even as the third goaltender?
E.N.: I do not understand why everyone considers me a reserve player. We have a coaching staff, and none of them has said anything about who will be the first goaltender and who will be the second or third. I am happy to be on the national team, and that is enough.
Nabby thinks the goalie who starts the season best in the NHL will end up with the plum gig on the Russian Olympic team:
If you play badly for the club, you will not get to the Olympics.
Therefore, each of us thinks about playing the first club game and later we will think about the second game; and then, in February, we will think about the Olympics. Now we have to prove to the coaches that we deserve to play on the national team, and I can only do this with the help of good games with the Islanders. Believe me: I will not be thinking 24/7 about the Olympics.
This is probably a good thing for all involved, since the last time we saw Nabokov in the Olympics he gave up six goals to Canada in an epic defeat for the Russians in the medal round in Vancouver.
So yeah, there’s a bit of redemption at stake here for Nabby, too.