Evgeni Nabokov

Evgeni Nabokov will ‘stick things out’ in NHL this season, even if it’s with the Islanders

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Every once and a while, a pattern forms to give a day a “theme.” If this Friday is any indication, then today might be “Big name KHL export returns to the NHL via Long Island Day.” (We might need a little time to work out the kinks in that title, though.)

Moments ago, we discussed Alexei Yashin’s possible reunion with the New York Islanders. That situation has a long way to go before it becomes anything more than a clever negotiating ploy, but one other possible return of a KHL defector brings extra validity for a simple reason: that guy is already under contract with the Isles.

In case the headline didn’t give it away, we’re talking about former San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. James Mirle reports that the goalie’s agent Don Meehan confirmed what was discussed in May: Nabokov is primed to play in the NHL during the 2011-12 season … even in the unlikely case that he’ll play in net for the Islanders.

“He will be in the NHL this season,” Meehan said.

Where he will play, however, remains the biggest question.

The Islanders already have veterans Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro and youngsters Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson and Mikko Koiskinen all vying for roles in the organization. Given his contract and experience, Nabokov would seem to be a good fit with plenty of other teams and could have some trade value, which appears to be the route the Islanders will go.

That said, if DiPietro’s health remains a question and they want to keep their young netminders in the minors, Nabokov could play on Long Island after snubbing the organization.

Mirtle’s thought process regarding the unlikelihood of Nabokov playing for the Islanders is sound, but I wonder if DiPietro’s health would be the only reason he might play for the team who received his cold shoulder last season. It wouldn’t be shocking if he played at least a handful of games in Long Island as an “audition” for teams who want to make sure that Nabby hasn’t lost too many steps after what was a dreadful aborted campaign in the KHL.

Who might be most interested in Nabokov

Nabokov’s track record and affordable one-year, $750K deal make him an intriguing trade target at this moment in time, though. The first team that might be awfully interested is the Anaheim Ducks. They have a lot of uncertainty at the position considering Jonas Hiller’s struggles with vertigo, the franchise must be very familiar with Nabokov from his time as a cross-state rival in San Jose and his contract wouldn’t damage their fragile budget too badly. The Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets are two other teams who might want to take a long look at Nabby as a possible starter (especially if the Jets’ new organization isn’t too keen on Ondrej Pavelec).

Nabokov could also be a reasonable insurance policy for a number of teams, including the Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets. Even the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs have enough questions in net to at least give Nabby some thought.

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While bringing Yashin back into the Islanders fold could rank as a wild move, Nabokov is more of a wild card. It’s tough to shake the notion that the two-time All-Star and three-time 40+ win man benefited greatly – perhaps deceptively – from his time playing behind a strong team in San Jose. Still, at one year and such a small salary, Nabokov ranks as a smart gamble for a solid chunk of teams. It’s not out of line to wonder if he could help a team go from a playoff outsider to a playoff contender, if nothing else.

Oddly enough, he might even make some sense for the Islanders, too.

Streaking Blues get Stastny back tonight

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 06:  Paul Stastny #26 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on December 6, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. The Blues defeated the Islanders 6-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s loss to Buffalo notwithstanding, St. Louis has been on fire lately under new head coach Mike Yeo. The Blues are 7-2 in their last nine, and will get a big piece of the lineup back this evening when they host Florida at Scottrade.

Paul Statsny, who’s missed the last four games with a lower-body injury, will draw in for the first time since Feb. 9, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac.

What’s more, Stastny will be immediately reunited on the club’s top line between Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Stastny had been on fire since the dismissal of former head coach Ken Hitchcock, racking up six points over his last five games played (in which the Blues went 4-1-0).

The 31-year-old currently sits fourth on the team in assists and points, while averaging 19:25 TOI per night, so he’s clearly a big part of the St. Louis attack. And based on his form prior to getting hurt, it was clear things were clicking with Steen and Tarasenko — which should make for an exciting test tonight against the red-hot Panthers.

Sens recall pair of forwards in wake of multiple injuries

Ottawa Senators' Mark Stone (61) lies injured on the ice after being hit hard by Winnipeg Jets' Jacob Trouba (not shown) during third period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Sunday Feb. 19, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The Ottawa Senators have called up some reinforcements from the AHL.

Forwards Casey Bailey and Max McCormick are on their way to the big club, in the wake of Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Jets that saw Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Tommy Wingels all leave with injuries.

The Sens also went into yesterday’s game without winger Bobby Ryan, who’s out indefinitely with a hand injury.

No word yet on the status of Hoffman, Stone, or Wingels, but head coach Guy Boucher wasn’t all that optimistic yesterday.

“It doesn’t look good,” Boucher told reporters. “We have to wait until tomorrow to be clear and precise but right now we could be losing quite a few guys.”

The Sens kick off a four-game road trip tomorrow in New Jersey. They currently sit second in the Atlantic Division, but not that far ahead of Boston, Toronto, and Florida.

Related: Jacob Trouba will have a hearing for head shot on Mark Stone

Kings’ Robitaille named chairman of German League club (Updated)

2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final – Game Six
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Kings legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille has added a new role to his front office portfolio.

Robitaille, currently serving as L.A.’s president of business operations, has been named as the chairman of Eisbaren Berlin, one of the most storied clubs in Germany’s top league, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

Berlin is owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the same outfit that owns the Kings. The two clubs have a fairly long history with each other, though this Robitaille appointment is part of what sounds like the biggest cooperative initiative to date.

UPDATE: The Kings have confirmed the development, with added information…

The Los Angeles Kings will now oversee all operations of Berlin Eisbaren Hockey, it was announced today at a news conference at Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Eisbaren Berlin of the German Ice Hockey League and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League are owned and operated by AEG Sports, a division of the Anschutz Entertainment Group. The LA Kings will now begin leading all hockey operations and administrative matters, directing the day-to-day leadership of Managing Director Peter John Lee.

“The results the last few years in Berlin have not been the championship standards that we all expect,” said Robitaille.  “It became clear that our relationship needs to go beyond collaboration and move to a complete connection to ensure the team and organization has what it needs to return this club to the type of team our fans expect and have demonstrated passionate support for.”

From the Eisbaren Berlin website (translated):

“This is an important day for the polar bears Berlin,” said Eisbären CEO Peter John Lee. We have been interacting with Luc Robitaille and LA Kings for a long time. In the new constellation we have the leadership of the LA Kings directly on board the polar bears, so we can work even more intensively to turn the polar bears Berlin into a championship team again.”

(At this time, probably worth noting the team’s nickname translates to polar bears.)

Former Kings farmhand Alex Roach currently plays for Berlin, and the team is coached by Robitaille’s former teammate in Detroit, Uwe Krupp.

Who has the best and worst special teams in the NHL?

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) celebrates with teammates after scoring a power play goal against the New York Islanders during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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If the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs, special teams will be one of the big reasons why.

Three quarters of the way through the season, the Leafs boast the NHL’s top power play, and their ninth-ranked penalty killing isn’t too bad either.

When the PP and PK are combined, Toronto has the best special teams in the league, followed closely by the Bruins, Blues, and Capitals.

Here’s how all 30 teams rank (best and worst PP and PK in bold):

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As you can see, the bottom of the list is full of teams who will miss the playoffs. The Stars’ penalty killing has been particularly dreadful. In fact, Dallas is on pace to have the worst PK of the salary-cap era.