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Nabokov expects to attend Islanders' camp

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said he will attend Islanders training camp in September.

"Yes, I do plan on attending," Nabokov said Monday. "Now I will have full preparation for the season."

The decision is a reversal from January, when he refused to report after he was claimed off waivers from Detroit by the Islanders, who suspended him.

"I want to set the record straight," Nabokov said from his home in Northern California. "A lot of people speculated that I didn't want to go to the organization, but that's totally not true.

"What made me make that decision is that I hadn't skated for a month and a half when they claimed me. They were out of the playoffs, but battling to get in, and, as a goalie, I know the goalie position is important when fighting for position [in the standings]. I didn't feel that I could help them to get to the playoffs. I needed three to four weeks to get ready and the season would've been over."

When Nabokov left Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, he assumed he'd be joining the playoff-bound Red Wings, who signed him to a one-year deal worth $570,000. But a provision in the league's collective-bargaining agreement allowed the Islanders to claim him off waivers.

"I was not feeling the strongest and Detroit was in a totally different position," Nabokov said. "They were going to the playoffs and willing to wait. The Islanders needed help then."

Nabokov said he has spoken to general manager Garth Snow recently but is not clear on the team's intent.

Since tolling his contract to retain Nabokov's rights, Snow has the option to trade him. The Islanders might explore whether the 36-year-old former Vezina Trophy finalist can compete for a spot and help the team, although it's already getting crowded at the position.

Last year's surprise replacement starter Al Montoya, oft-injured Rick DiPietro and 21-year-old Kevin Poulin all will be vying for the starting job.

When asked recently about Nabokov's future with the team, Snow declined to share any specific plans.

Would Nabokov prefer to be traded? "What I want is to get back to the NHL, whether that's with the Islanders or another team," Nabokov said. "If the Islanders think I can help them, that's fine with me."

However, Nabokov knows he might not be embraced by fans or teammates after last season's saga.

"Any time you go to a new group, you want to be welcomed," Nabokov said. "I'm not sure everyone understands the situation. Players can play five, 10 minutes a night, but goalies have to play the whole game. I wasn't ready and the situation wasn't right. I wish we had better communication between the Islanders and me, but it was a tough decision for me that I couldn't help."

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