An NHL lockout is not a big benefit to NHL players, who either play overseas in leagues with less talent or spend a few weeks trying to stay in shape by skating with a handful of players in an informal setting.
It seems to be especially tough for goalies, who need to get in a rhythm to be good -- witness Evgeni Nabokov coming off a year of not playing last season and then injuring his groin -- so this lockout, however long it lasts, will be tough on Nabokov, who is still working out in Northern California while mulling European offers, and on Rick DiPietro, who is working out on Long Island.
The beneficiaries may be Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin, who are in Bridgeport camp and working with both Mike Dunham and Steve Valiquette, the Isles' two goaltending coaches. It's extra ice time and extra coaching time that Nilsson and Poulin would have had to share in an NHL camp.
"I think it could be good for both of us," Nilsson said after Monday's practice. "It's important to have all the time on the ice, facing shots and then getting to play games when some other guys aren't."
It's a bit of a cynical way to look at this lockout, which will bring about the cancellation or postponement of the opening week or two of regular-season games by tomorrow or Thursday. But every GM in the league secretly wants all his players either on the AHL squad or playing overseas to be ready and in some semblance of game shape when the lockout ends. And the evaluation period for locked-out players may be shorter when they return, meaning a slow start for either of the Isles' NHL-contracted goaltenders could pave the way for Nilsson or Poulin to get some big-club time.
"It's all about being ready when the time comes," said Poulin, who suffered through a rough start in Bridgeport last season after a summer rehabbing his dislocated kneecap. "I feel a lot stronger and healthier now than I did last year this time, and it's great to have Dunny and Vally give us all their attention."