Al Montoya has been nothing short of spectacular in the Islanders first three games, but as New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple reported, coach Jack Capuano has decided to mix things up on Saturday. Thus, Evgeni Nabokov will start in his first regular season NHL game since April 10th, 2010.
It’s been quite a journey for Nabokov to get to this point. After posting a 2.43 GAA and .922 save percentage in 71 starts with the San Jose Sharks in 2009-10, Nabokov signed a four-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. However, Nabokov only lasted a matter of months before he got out of that contract and inked a one-year/$570,000 contract with the Detroit Red Wings. Nabokov seemed excited to play for Detroit, but he was required to first clear waivers. Unsurprisingly, he the New York Islanders claimed the star goalie for the discount price. What was surprising was Nabokov refusal to play for them in 2010-11, which allowed the Islanders to toll his contract to this season. Nabokov has changed his tune since then, and he entered the season with the intention of helping the Islanders.
Despite Nabokov’s superb career numbers, he’s seemed like a third wheel with the Islanders between the up-and-coming Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro, whose lifetime contract ensures that he’s not going anywhere whether the team wants him to or not. However, with DiPietro out indefinitely due to a concussion he sustained during Friday’s practice, the Islanders goaltending situation has simplified for the moment. With that in mind, we’ll find out on Saturday if Nabokov is just has good as he’s ever been despite his long absence and if he’s able to put some pressure on Montoya.