Evgeni Nabokov arrived at the Islanders' practice facility Wednesday morning, and you would have never known he was the same goalie who spurned the team last season.
Nabokov was chatting up his new teammates and was eager to join practice.
"Absolutely," Nabokov said. "I haven't played in a long time, so it's fun to be back."
The 36-year-old Russian netminder refused to report when the Islanders claimed him off waivers last January after he had signed a deal with the Detroit Red Wings. The Islanders suspended him for the remainder of the season for his refusal to report, and then extended, or tolled, his contract for the upcoming season.
There was no red carpet rolled out in his crease, however.
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Nabokov was one of four goaltenders splitting reps during the team's informal skate at IceWorks. The former Vezina Trophy finalist shared a net with 21-year-old Kevin Poulin on one end of the ice while fellow netminders Rick DiPietro and Al Montoya shared the other.
"You can't go anywhere without a competition," said Nabokov, who spent part of last season with the Russian Hockey League. "Training camp is always the key to the season and hopefully, we'll get going."
DiPietro and Montoya headed to the weight room to work out after the hourlong drills session ended, but Nabokov and Poulin stayed on with most of the skaters for an impromptu scrimmage.
"It's never been a question for me to be in good shape, but on the ice you've got to get used to certain things a little bit," Nabokov said. "That's what the first preseason games are for."
Nabokov has yet to meet with Islanders coach Jack Capuano or general manager Garth Snow, so he has no idea yet how they plan to use their cadre of goaltenders.
"I don't have a good indication on that," he said.
Two years removed from his last NHL training camp, however, he knows he still has something to prove.
"In this league, you're always trying to prove yourself, that you can help your team get higher in the standings and get the wins," Nabokov said. "This game is all about the wins."
Isles commemorate 40th anniversary. In addition to wearing a 40-year anniversary patch on their uniforms this season, the Islanders announced that they will have four "Decade Nights" at Nassau Coliseum.
Four players from each of their four decades will be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame: Ed Westfall (Nov. 19), Ken Morrow (Dec. 31), Patrick Flatley (Jan. 14) and Kenny Jonsson (Feb. 11) each will be honored with a plaque in the hallway outside the dressing room and their names on the Hall of Fame banner in the rafters.