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Nabokov excited for first game with Isles

New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov deflects the

New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov deflects the puck during the first period of a preseason hockey game against the Calgary Flames. (Sept. 27, 2011) Credit: AP

Evgeni Nabokov's first NHL game in 17 months has the 36-year-old pumped, especially with it coming against the Rangers.

"I hope the crowd will be buzzing," Nabokov said. He found out Friday afternoon he was getting the nod over Al Montoya.

Nabokov left the NHL after a decade with the Sharks to sign with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL last summer. He lasted only 22 games there before being bought out and signed a one-year, pro-rated deal for the NHL league minimum with the Wings in January, hoping to give them a veteran backup for the stretch run.

But the Islanders, decimated by injuries in goal, claimed Nabokov on waivers, which he had to pass through before he could return to the NHL. Nabokov declined to report, was suspended and had his contract tolled, meaning he would still be Isles property when this season began.

A Long Island dinner with GM Garth Snow in April changed Nabokov's mind about the Isles and the 36-year-old goaltender came to training camp with a positive attitude. He didn't dress the first two games, but now with Rick DiPietro sidelined by a concussion, Nabokov gets his chance.

"One thing I've learned is you can't predict anything," he said. "Sometimes life gives you a bunch of surprises. That's all in the past, so you've got to move forward."

New York Sports