What does Evgeni Nabokov's start mean for Islanders' goalie situation?
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
Evgeni Nabokov will get the start in goal tonight for the Islanders, and that will be his sixth start in the team's 14th game, most among the three goaltenders sharing the crowded net.
This could mean the Isles are trying hard to showcase Nabokov for a trade, one that he would have to approve, since the contract he signed with the Red Wings in January includes a full no-trade clause.
Or it could mean the Islanders are still searching for a goaltender who can be a true No. 1 and stay healthy. Al Montoya made 47 saves in Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Avalanche, but he got dinged around by Colorado, which drew three penalties for roughing Montoya; he feels fine and practiced Saturday, but he won't dress Sunday.
Nabokov said GM Garth Snow has not approached him about the possibility of waiving the no-trade clause and Nabokov, 36, would be happy staying an Islander, provided the playing time is there.
"I don't want to go anywhere if they need me, let's put it that way," Nabokov said after the team's practice at Rogers Arena. "My approach is still the same [as it was to start the season]: Come to the rink, work hard and that's it."
Several teams are starting to see a need for a goaltender, including the Blue Jackets, who have gotten poor goaltending from Steve Mason and have little depth because of injuries, and the Leafs, whose starter James Reimer is out indefinitely with a concussion.
But the Islanders have a need as well, the same need they had when the season began: To find one of the three veterans who made the team out of training camp who can string good games together. So far, that hasn't happened, due to poor offense by the team and injuries to Nabokov and Rick DiPietro.
So, for the time being, the three-goaltender rotation stays. As does Nabokov.
Snow: No changes
Snow told Newsday that there was "nothing imminent" on the trade front. The only changes coming in the next few days will be moves originating out of Bridgeport: Goaltending prospect Mikko Koskinen, who hasn't gotten much work because of the Sound Tigers' three-goaltender rotation with Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson, will sign with a team in his native Finland, most likely by Monday.
Rookie right wing Nino Niederreiter will return to the Islanders, having finished his two-week conditioning stint in Bridgeport. He had a goal and an assist in four games through Friday, with a games Saturday and and Sunday.
Niederreiter's return will force Jack Capuano to sit one of the regular forwards, though Capuano said he wasn't thinking that far ahead.
Other than those moves, Snow doesn't feel the team needs any tinkering now.
"When we put 60 minutes together, we've shown we can beat anybody in this league," Snow said. "We have a lot of confidence in the guys we have."
Plus: Casey Cizikas, the 20-year-old center, has shown he's got a handle on the pro game, with three goals and 11 points in 13 games with Bridgeport.
Minus: Micheal Haley, who served as an effective enforcer with the Isles last season, has not started off his AHL season too well: One assist and a minus-8 rating in 11 games, plus a suspension for an on-ice incident.