Evgeni Nabokov

Evgeni Nabokov is willing to attend Islanders training camp, sets ‘record straight’ about last season

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For at least one day in August, the New York Islanders are dominating hockey news. Of course, the biggest story is still unfolding as polls for the team’s new arena referendum are reportedly expected to close around 9 pm ET. (We will keep an eye on that situation for you, by the way.) Today’s news also featured some aftershocks from the team’s trade with the New Jersey Devils, as their regional rivals waived Trent Hunter, the player the Devils received in exchange for Brian Rolston’s bloated cap hit.

Those two bits weren’t the only interesting Islanders-related stories, though.

Earlier this summer, we shared word from Evgeni Nabokov’s agent that the goalie is willing to play for the New York Islanders, the team he spurned in January. While that statement seemed like a promising sign that Nabokov might be willing to play ball, it means a lot more to hear it from the man himself. Nabokov confirmed those thoughts by telling Newsday’s Katie Strang that he is willing to attend Islanders training camp (subscription required).

“Yes I do plan on attending,” Nabokov told Newsday. “Now I will have full preparation for the season.”

Of course, it might come down to whether or not the Islanders want Nabokov to be a part of their team (or more precisely, what they can get for him). Even at 36 years old and one shaky season removed from the NHL, Nabokov should carry at least some trade value for teams who might want some goalie insurance. It’s quite possible that he might benefit the Islanders more via trade than anything he could accomplish on their team. That’s especially true in this case, considering the possibility that their might be some awkward feelings on the Islanders’ side.

Nabokov didn’t just confirm that he’s willing to play for the team in that article. He also discussed that uncomfortable situation from last season, saying that it was a little more complicated than a simple rejection of the Islanders.

“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],” Nabokov said. “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.”

(snip)

“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.”

If you ask me, Nabokov still made a mistake when he decided not to use the Islanders as a glorified free agent audition. With Rick DiPietro in his perpetual injury cycle and Dwayne Roloson recently traded away, the Islanders had a gaping hole at net, so it seemed like the perfect time for Nabby to nab some starts. Then again, maybe Nabokov was just being self-aware rather than difficult. If there really was an understanding that the Red Wings would have allowed him to work back into his ideal shape, then perhaps it was a more complex decision than it seemed at the time.

That being said, by denying that opportunity, the aging netminder lost a valuable thing: time. There’s always the chance that he might follow in Tomas Vokoun’s footsteps by joining a contender for a season, but it’s just as likely that he will have to play for the Islanders or another underdog team. Hopefully he’s more fit for that type of challenge now than he was in January.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal