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Kevin Poulin now No. 1 with Evgeni Nabokov on shelf

Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin deflects a shot during

Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin deflects a shot during the first period. (Nov. 10, 2013) Credit: AP

The latest Islanders injury, this one to goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, isn't as damaging as some of their earlier injuries, given the way Kevin Poulin has played lately.

But the dynamic of the Isles' goaltending situation is vastly different now with Nabokov out indefinitely with a groin injury suffered on the Red Wings' first shot on net Saturday night.

According to several sources, Nabokov almost certainly will be out a minimum of four weeks, and quite possibly more. So Poulin, who started the previous three games before Saturday, is now the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender, with Anders Nilsson coming up from Bridgeport on Sunday night to give the Isles a pair of 23-year-olds with a total of 26 NHL starts between them.

Poulin will get the call on Tuesday in Toronto, his first game as the new top dog in goal.

"I think every player that works his way up from the minors, every player who pays his dues, wants that opportunity," Jack Capuano said. "Kevin's no different than Brock Nelson or Aaron Ness or Matt Donovan. He's going to get to play some more hockey in a very different role."

Nabokov needed to be helped off the ice 4:12 into Saturday's game after giving up a two-on-none goal to Darren Helm. The 38-year-old goaltender had groin issues when he first came to the Islanders two seasons ago, missing a month from mid-November to mid-December and then the final three weeks of the season.

But by now, this season's team should be accustomed to losing players. Defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body) are out indefinitely and Thomas Vanek has missed four straight games with a muscle strain.

"I expressed that to our guys on Saturday night, going through this stretch, we have to with that confidence, that attitude, that swagger we had most of last year," Capuano said. "It didn't matter who we played or was in the lineup, we worked hard and played the system. I thought we had one of our best games on Saturday, so we'll see."

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