Nabokov leads young Isles

Evgeni Nabokov keeps young Isles calm and poised on and off the ice.

Monday, 12.16.2013 / 5:06 PM ET / News
By Cory Wright
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Nabokov leads young Isles
Evgeni Nabokov keeps young Isles calm and poised on and off the ice.

As Islanders practice wound down Monday at Nassau Coliseum, Evgeni Nabokov kept busy in a board meeting with head coach Jack Capuano and assistant coach Brent Thompson. The trio, posted up along the half wall, talked out scenarios and positioning; the wily vet offering a goaltenders’ perspective on D-zone play.

Nabokov, the Islanders resident veteran and goaltender, just wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page in his zone. As a 13-year NHL vet, Nabokov is a steady presence in the Islanders locker room and adds his two cents when he feels it necessary.

“Having him and his voice in our room is an extension of the coaching staff,” Capuano said. “He’s been around a long time and it’s great to have him back around the team.”

Nabokov’s leadership is most needed on the ice, especially in the absence of 37-year-old defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. Nabokov was stellar in his return to the Islanders crease Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, stopping 24-of-25 shots and keeping the young Islanders defense poised in a scoreless tie through 60 minutes.

He was in constant communication from the blue paint, directing traffic in the Islanders zone. His voice may not have carried through the glass into the crowd during his first game back from a groin injury, but the d-corps could hear their Russian conscience loud and clear.

“He brings a lot of experience and he’s been in the league for a long time,” Andrew MacDonald said. “He is very vocal back there when he needs his D. He is a strong presence back there.”

After 13 seasons and over 660 NHL games, Nabokov knows what he wants from his defense, how he wants it and when. It’s black and white, and in a split-second league, there’s no time for grey.

“Nabby is very precise in what he wants,” Thomas Hickey said. “As a defenseman, it’s all about guidance and communication. You know what shots to take and which to give up. It makes the game easier.”

After maintaining some distance from the team during his rehab stint, Nabokov’s return to the locker room has been just as important as his return to the ice. Nabokov prefers to keep his role between him and players, but Hickey related Nabokov’s vocal presence to constructive criticism.

“It helps the whole team out,” Hickey said. “He does it to make the team better on the defensive front. He’s not doing it to bring anyone down. And in the dressing room he has that cool demeanor that you look up to.”

Around the rink, he’s upbeat, funny and jokes around with the guys, bridging the age gap. He keeps his head up during hard times, but doesn’t let himself get carried away when he’s playing well either.

Never one for passionate post-game speeches, when Nabokov speaks up in the room, his teammates feel the weight of his words and respect what he has to say.

“He’s been around and been a part of a lot of successful teams. For me, he’s always been a big guy in the room,” Islanders captain John Tavares said.

He may downplay his importance as a veteran to a young locker room, but everyone else speaks so highly of him, he’ll eventually have to acknowledge that he’s a role model.

Especially if they adopt his d-zone coverage.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
M. Neuvirth 1 3 1 .881 2.94

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