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The Isles' goaltending mess: Blame Nabokov

San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov eyes the

San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov eyes the puck during Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against Chicago. (May 16, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

The latest unbelievable fiasco involving an Islanders goaltender -- and to think less than a week ago it was something else -- cropped up in warmups last night. Kevin Poulin hobbled out of the Coliseum on crutches and a MRI exam today will show whether a freak accident costs the Isles' top prospect a few days, the rest of this season or more.

Mikko Koskinen got thrown into the fire last night, and it showed. Nathan Lawson is a few days away from returning. Joel Martin, who was toiling for the Odessa Jackalopes two weeks ago, is now the backup.

This is all Evgeni Nabokov's fault.

I'm joking, but only a little. This is laugh-or-cry time for Islanders fans. Even the most die-hard of die-hards can't make sense of what's befallen this team, and this is not on GM Garth Snow or even Charles Wang.

They attempted to keep the goaltending future of the franchise on the right track by trading Dwayne Roloson for something, rather than watching him walk at the end of a playoff-less season. They were going to rely on Rick DiPietro and Lawson while letting Poulin and Koskinen work out the kinks in Bridgeport.

Once Lawson went down, they looked to the waiver wire. There was Nabokov, not quite ready to play but looking to jump back into the NHL after a disappointing half-season in Russia.

It was a chance for a veteran goaltender to show he was still viable in the best league in the world, even if his original destination, Detroit, wasn't going to be his stop this year. By now, Nabokov would have been well ready to play for the Islanders. Instead, he mocked them, wondering why such a lowly team would claim him on waivers when he only wanted to play a couple games down the stretch for the Wings, sit back and hopefully get his name on a Stanley Cup for doing not very much at all.

Snow is not a vindictive guy. If I were the Isles GM, after all the "Ha, ha, look at the Isles" jokes on Twitter and around the league -- even from this space, I fully admit -- I'd happily take out my frustrations on Nabokov and make sure he never plays again in the NHL.

His derision didn't make DiPietro fight Brent Johnson. Nabokov's refusal to report did not get Poulin's skate caught in a rut last night.

But Nabokov is a big reason why the Isles had to juggle their goaltenders up and down the organization, and chaos leads to things like this. Like a broken face and perhaps a torn-up knee in pregame.

So those around the league can blame Wang for his cheapness, or Snow for trying to put perfume on a pig to make this team look better when it's still struggling. You can blame DiPietro for his cockiness, I suppose.

I blame Nabokov. If he wanted to choose his NHL team without needing waivers, he should have taken one of the offers he had in the summer. He's chosen not to play at all rather than undertake a big challenge.

Can't imagine any team would want him now.

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