BUFFALO - Will Evgeni Nabokov become an Islander on Saturday?

Although the 35-year-old Russian goaltender signed a one-year deal with Detroit late Thursday night, he must first clear waivers at noon Saturday.

And given the Islanders' recent goaltending carousel - oft-injured Rick DiPietro, rookie Nathan Lawson (who injured his left knee Friday night in the first period of a 5-2 victory over the Sabres and did not return) and rookie Kevin Poulin - they might be inclined to put in a claim.

A source confirmed to Newsday on Thursday that the Islanders have had internal discussions about claiming Nabokov. That interest may have increased Friday night with Lawson's injury.

With DiPietro back on Long Island battling the flu, Poulin, 20, had to take over cold after Lawson was hurt making a play to stop Jochen Hecht at the right post at 16:58 of the first. Poulin (26 saves) gave up two late goals but held on for his second NHL win.

With the inconsistency the Islanders have experienced in goal recently, Nabokov could be an enticing option. Beyond the experience he would bring to the Islanders' goaltending position, he comes with a reasonable price tag. He signed a one-year deal worth $570,000, although that would be prorated for the remainder of the season.

The former All-Star and Vezina Trophy finalist, who amassed 293 wins in a decade with the San Jose Sharks, became a free agent in December after being released from SKA St. Petersburg of the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.

Because of the circumstances surrounding his return to the NHL, however, he cannot report to the Red Wings until he clears waivers.

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The Islanders are one of the teams with first dibs to claim him, given that priority is given to the team with the lowest spot in the standings.

Assuming the Islanders put in a claim and neither Edmonton nor New Jersey has interest - Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters Friday that he had no intention of claiming Nabokov - the goalie would be theirs.

Whether he would report to a team out of playoff contention, however, is another issue. When reached by telephone Friday, Nabokov's agent, Don Meehan, declined to comment on that scenario. "We'd prefer to focus on Detroit right now," Meehan told Newsday. "To talk about anything else would be purely speculative."

And although Islanders general manager Garth Snow has shown a willingness to make moves to acquire picks and prospects this season - in addition to moving goalie Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay, Snow shipped defenseman James Wisniewski to Montreal - he could not claim Nabokov with the sole intention of trading him.

According to the league's collective-bargaining agreement, Nabokov would have to be put through waivers again before being traded. He also would have to give his permission for that because his recently inked deal with the Red Wings contains a no-move clause.

The Islanders took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Michael Grabner and Matt Moulson, prompting Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff to yank starter Ryan Miller and replace him with Patrick Lalime.

Grabner's goal, scored when the puck bounced in off Tyler Myers' skate, marked the first time in nine games the Islanders have tallied first. Grabner also scored an empty-net goal with less than two seconds remaining in the game.

PA Parenteau beat Lalime at 14:35 of the second period and defenseman Jack Hillen tapped in a rebound in the third for a 4-0 lead.