For those who thought the Islanders' three-goaltender rotation was a detriment, now is the time to start paying attention.
Evgeni Nabokov is out indefinitely with a groin injury, according to the team. It is believed to be a severe enough injury to keep him out a month. Those who saw Nabokov flop to the Coliseum ice in pain after stopping a shot 7:55 into the first period of Thursday night's 4-3 win over Montreal knew the 36-year-old would miss some time.
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What might have been missed is another goaltender injury, announced late Friday: Al Montoya is day-to-day with a strained hamstring, an injury he first felt after getting jostled around in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Avalanche in Denver on Nov. 10. He has not played since.
Now oft-injured, long-tenured Rick DiPietro will have the top job. Anders Nilsson, in his first pro season, will be called up from Bridgeport and serve as DiPietro's backup in Saturday night's game against the Bruins.
"Everybody talked about us having three goalies," coach Jack Capuano said after practice at the Coliseum on Friday. "Now I'd say we're pretty fortunate to have the goalies we have."
At various times, all three have said the crowded net doesn't affect them. Although he has a no-trade clause, because of his affordable contract (one year, $570,000), Nabokov would be the most attractive trade chip. That's on hold as he not only has to recover from the injury but work his way back into the net.
"Basically, you have to start all over again," said Nabokov, who is 1-5-0 with a 2.83 goals-against average this season. "What you always want is to go out and play, and I had a couple games in a row to start. You want to get on a run, feel good and keep going. Now I have to battle through this."
The Isles have been battling to get wins, going 2-7-3 in their last 12. With five games in eight days -- after the Bruins, they visit the Penguins on Monday, host the Flyers on Wednesday and have a home-and-home with the Devils Friday and Saturday -- DiPietro will need to shoulder the load. "It's definitely not the way you want it, to see [Nabokov get hurt]," he said. "But it's up to us to stay sharp and help the team when they call on us."