One would expect some -- possibly all -- New York Islanders fans inside Nassau Coliseum tonight to get their Evgeni Nabokov frustrations out in the form of loud boos towards the netminder the moment he steps on to the ice before settling in and rooting for a third win in four games.
After Nabokov signed a 1-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings in January, he needed to pass through waivers since he was coming over from the KHL. Since the Islanders were in a goaltending conundrum, GM Garth Snow took a chance and claimed the 36-year old.
That led to Nabokov declining to show up on Long Island before being suspended indefinitely by the team. After last season, Nabokov realized that the Islanders held his future in their hands and softened his stance. The team tolled his contract to this season meaning that because he failed to report after being claimed, the team retained his rights for this season.
Tonight, Nabokov gets his first NHL start since May 23, 2010 and it's either the first step in overtaking a so-far solid Al Montoya (2-1-0, .953, 1.35) for the Isles' No. 1 job or towards a potential deal out of Long Island with his very attractive $570,000 salary.
But even if Nabokov sticks with the club for the full season, the Islanders recent goaltending issues is reason enough that his presence is welcomed, as Dominik from Lighthouse Hockey points out:
I'm not a big believer in Nabokov -- not the way our many Sharks fan visitors are. But I like the idea of having him around. Competition is good. Insurance is good. Goalies can surprise you good and bad. The Islanders don't play again until Thursday, on their early Florida trip, so while Al Montoya has been grand, giving Nabby a look now might just keep his head in the competition.
Some goaltenders succeed when they're the only choice in net, while others need that competition in the crease. With Rick DiPietro now out indefinitely with a concussion, Nabokov gets his opportunity and Islanders head coach Jack Capuano puts a little bit of pressure -- if Nabby can play well -- on Montoya to continue playing the way he has through three starts.
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