Missing playoffs a rarity for Nabokov
TORONTO -- Losing has not been a big part of Evgeni Nabokov's NHL career. Even though the 36-year-old goaltender has had a season that certainly has been a revival, it seems all but certain that he won't get to add to his career total of 80 playoff games, which ranks 21st all-time and second among active goalies, behind only Martin Brodeur.
He said the possibility of missing the postseason for only the second time in 11 NHL seasons, and first since the Sharks missed out in 2002-03, has not altered his thinking about signing with the Islanders for next season and possibly one more season beyond that.
"It's not really changed anything, business as usual," Nabokov said after the Islanders practiced at the Air Canada Centre Monday before facing the Maple Leafs Tuesday night. "It's really between [Don Meehan, Nabokov's agent, and Islanders GM Garth Snow] right now."
Meehan and Snow were slated to talk Monday night in the ongoing contract discussions. Two sources indicated that a deal still could be reached before the end of the regular season.
The Islanders are 11 points behind the eighth-place Capitals, who beat the Red Wings, 5-3, Monday night. None of the seven teams below the Eastern Conference cut line has sustained enough pressure to overtake the Caps, keeping all of the teams mathematically alive, but the Islanders' 3-5-3 slide since the night before the trade deadline has them tied for 14th.
"It's definitely not a good feeling," Nabokov said. "It's been frustrating for sure, but it's also a challenge. We still have to help the team win, and that's my focus right now and what I'm hoping to do if I stay here."
The appeal of staying for another season or two has all to do with Nabokov's opportunity to play. The uncertain market facing veteran goaltenders in the summer is evidenced by Tomas Vokoun (one year, $1.5 million) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (two years, $2.5 million) taking low-value deals as free agents.
Nabokov himself didn't get what he considered a good offer as a free agent two summers ago, and the chance to still be a No. 1 weighs heavier than the chance to mentor youngsters Anders Nilsson or Kevin Poulin next season.
"This mentor thing, we're not here to mentor anybody. They're big kids, they know what they're doing," Nabokov said. "If I stay, I'm here to play and win games. They have their routines, I have mine, and we all get along."