Evgeni Nabokov remains in goal for Islanders in Game 6
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"Every goalie, if you ask them, would like one or two back; there's no question," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said yesterday. "But I've got confidence in Nabokov and will continue to go with him. He'll start again; there's no surprise, and we'll just move along with him.
"He's a veteran guy. He's probably harder on himself than anybody else. He knows how to play."
There is no going back to Thursday night's 4-0 loss at Pittsburgh -- with Nabokov pulled a second time in the series -- and no need, going forward, "to spell it out" to his players, Capuano said. "They understand the circumstance, how hard we have to play.
"We've been in these must-win situations before and our guys have responded pretty well. So, we're at home, hopefully we'll have that barn rocking here again."
Reliable defenseman Andrew MacDonald is unavailable; Capuano said he had surgery on the broken hand he suffered in Game 4. And steady center Frans Nielsen, who left Thursday's game with an unspecified lower-body injury, may or may not be available.
But the show goes on.
Nabokov's goals-against average has inflated to 4.69 in the five postseason games but, at 37 and finishing his 12th NHL season, he brings the most experience and -- by far -- the most playing time to the event. This is no time to ask 23-year-old Kevin Poulin to perform some miracle on Hempstead Turnpike.
The buzz is that Nabokov has not been particularly brilliant, even in the Islanders' two victories, and he acknowledged that "it's always important that you have a big stop or something like that." But, he said, "I'll be ready. [For Thursday's] game we prepared to win. It didn't happen. So now we're preparing again.
"A loss is a loss in the playoffs," Nabokov said. "I don't think the score matters. Forget this game and get ready for [tonight]."
Whether the score is "9-0, 3-2," Capuano agreed, "it's a loss. We have to reload, we have to refocus, re-energize ourselves, minds and bodies. You don't want to overthink.
"They don't, and we don't, change a whole lot. There's certain adjustments, minor adjustments, that both teams have made, but for the most part, it's about battle level, it's about puck management."
If the Islanders win Saturday night, they will face the challenge of an immediate repeat -- a Game 7 would be Sunday. But they have to get there first. If they do, the odds are that Capuano will keep dancing with the one who brought him.