Frans Nielsen didn't find out about his four-year, $11 million contract until after he took the ice in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, but it was just what he wanted to hear.
"When we started talking [before the season began], I knew this is where I wanted to be," Nielsen said after his shootout goal proved to be the winner in the Islanders' 1-0 win over the Flyers. "I want to be here when the good things start happening."
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For the Islanders (22-22-8), who are 7-3-1 in their last 11 and currently sit in 11th place in the East (nine points out of a playoff spot), the good times seem closer than at any point in the last couple of seasons.
The Islanders have two other veterans playing key roles who will be unrestricted free agents this summer: Evgeni Nabokov, who made 45 saves to earn the shutout win on Tuesday, and P.A. Parenteau, who is fifth in the NHL with 36 assists.
Allan Walsh, Parenteau's agent, and Islanders general manager Garth Snow have had some preliminary talks on a contract, but they don't appear to be close to a deal. Nabokov, who was reluctant to join the Islanders a year ago but is now one of the bigger bargains in the league, with a 2.21 goals-against average and a 12-12-0 record for his $575,000 salary, said he's not predicting the future yet.
"But I like what I see around here," Nabokov said. "This is a team going in the right direction."
Nabokov, who has a full no-trade clause, also said he has not asked for a trade at any point this season.
Snow likely has heard from several fellow general managers regarding those two players as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches, but indications are that the Islanders won't be moving either one if the team continues to hang on the fringes of the playoff picture.
The Islanders begin a stretch of three home games in four days Thursday night against the Canadiens. With four games at hand on eighth-place Ottawa, the Isles have a chance to make more good things happen.
Notes & quotes: D Dylan Reese was diagnosed with a sprained left knee and will miss the next 4-6 weeks. D Milan Jurcina (lacerated elbow) skated Wednesday and could be ready to return to the lineup Thursday night. If he can't play, the Isles will call up yet another defenseman from Bridgeport, either rookie Matt Donovan or Ty Wishart.