Evgeni Nabokov, Denis Grebeshkov discuss leaving NHL for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL


nabbyfreezespuck.jpgWhile his career decisions didn’t create an Ilya Kovalchuk-type stir, it’s not crazy to say that Evgeni Nabokov might have been the biggest unrestricted free agent of the summer. Sure, he’s had his fair share of struggles when the spotlight intensifies – whether that’s a fault of the Russian Olympic team’s spotty defense or the San Jose Sharks’ core players is another discussion for another day – but Nabokov was a rock in net for the Sharks for 10 years. It’s actually a bit surprising that more wasn’t made of the six year, $24 million deal he signed to play in the KHL.

Perhaps the reaction was muted by the sparse amount of interviews and press provided by Nabokov and the Sharks, though. The Russian goalie spoke at a press conference with fellow defector defenseman Denis Grebeshkov today and Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov captured the scene. Grebeshkov and Nabokov both made statements that denied the notion that going back to Russian meant taking a step back but Nabby’s statements might qualify as another slight on the Edmonton Oilers.

The “step back” question triggered the following conversation between Nabokov and a reporter:

Nabokov: “It’s very interesting, why does everyone always think that when you come back it’s a step back?”

Reporter: I mean that the level of competition is a little different.

Nabokov: “Let me ask you, would you want to play for the Edmonton Oilers, for example?” [laughter] “Let me tell you that when you have a choice and you have something to choose from, you always want to play for a good team, compete for medals and such. I will speak for myself, but the situation was such that I had no choice of a good team to play for and to play at the high level. To me it was very important to play for a good team, to try to win.”

Ouch. Poor, cold Edmonton … must they always be the Exhibit A whenever a hockey player discusses Where Not to Play?

The press conference also featured an announcement that another NHL player (former Atlanta Thrashers forward Maxim Afinogenov) would join Nabokov and Grebeshkov on a deep-pocketed SKA St. Petersburg team that also employs occasional punchline Alexei Yashin. If there is a single KHL team for NHL fans to watch, SKA seems to be that club.

Kings’ AHL affiliate gives Emery PTO

Ray Emery
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Ray Emery has agreed to join the Ontario Reign on a professional tryout, according to a team release.

The Reign are the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

Emery attended Tampa Bay’s training camp on a PTO, but he was released after the team claimed Kevin Poulin on waivers from the Islanders.

The 33-year-old had a 10-11-7 record with a 3.06 goals-against-average and a .894 save percentage in 31 games with the Flyers last season.

Even with starter Jonathan Quick struggling, it’s hard to envision this move leading to a return to the NHL for Emery.

The Kings have Quick and Jhonas Enroth with the big club, while veteran Peter Budaj was signed to a two-way contract on Friday.

Goalie nods: Reimer makes first start of the season

James Reimer
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James Reimer will get his first start of the 2015-16 season on Saturday night against Ottawa.

Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock made it clear from the beginning that Jonathan Bernier was going to start on Wednesday against Montreal and Friday in Detroit, while Reimer would get in against the Sens.

“I’ve known this for a long time that (Bernier is) starting and he’s starting on Wednesday and he’s starting on Friday. Reims is starting on Saturday,” Babcock said before the season began.

Things haven’t gone according to plan for Toronto through two games.

Not only have they lost both contests, but Bernier was pulled in yesterday’s 4-0 loss to the Red Wings, and the team has scored only one goal this season.

Reimer, who stopped 12 of 13 shots in just under 40 minutes of action against Detroit, will go up against Craig Anderson.


Cam Talbot will try to get his first win as an Oiler as they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators. Pekka Rinne will start for the Predators.

Carey Price and Tuukka Rask will face-off when the Canadiens and Bruins renew hostilities at the TD Garden in Boston.

Petr Mrazek will be between the pipes when the Red Wings take on the ‘Canes in Carolina. Cam Ward gets the nod for the Hurricanes.

Keith Kinkaid for the Devils. Braden Holtby makes his first start of the year in the Capitals’ season opener.

Steve Mason for the Flyers. Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in their opener.

-Columbus hasn’t confirmed who their starter will be in the back half of their home-and-home with the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist will start for New York.

Jake Allen makes his first start of the regular season for St. Louis. Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

-The Islanders have yet to confirm their starter for tonight’s game in Chicago. Scott Darling for the ‘Hawks after Corey Crawford helped spoil the party in Brooklyn yesterday.

Antti Niemi gets the call for Dallas after he blanked the Penguins in his first start. Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

Jonas Hiller for Calgary. Ryan Miller for the Canucks.

-The Penguins haven’t confirmed who their starter will be in Arizona tonight. Mike Smith will likely play in back-to-back games after beating the Kings on Friday.

-The Ducks have yet to confirm their starter. Martin Jones will start for San Jose.