"I think I knew 80 percent of the team," said Nabokov, who played for St. Petersburg in the KHL last season. "Either I played with them or I played against them. You see each other in different tournaments. Some of them you're really close with, or some them you just say hi and have a couple of laughs with.
"It struck me when I found out. I was at breakfast and reading the Russian newspapers and all of a sudden, it popped up. It's almost like you don't want to believe something like that. It's tough. You have chills and you just hope that the families will find the strength to fight through something like that."
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Former Islanders captain Alexei Yashin, who has been skating with the Islanders over the past week during some informal workouts, agreed.
"It's a sad day in the history of hockey," Yashin said. "A lot of my friends were on the plane. I just want to give my condolences to the families. It's a tough time for everybody in the hockey world -- not only in Russia, but this should touch everybody in professional sports. There's nothing really you can say."
According to the reports on the crash, the plane, a Yakovlev Yak-42 passenger jet, went down and caught fire shortly immediately after taking to the air, crashing less than 2 kilometers from the airport. It was en route to Minsk, Belarus for a Thursday night game against Dynamo Minsk, Yaroslavl's opener to the 2011-12 KHL season.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the plane crashed immediately after taking off from an airport near the city on the Volga River, which is approximately 150 miles northeast of Moscow.
Nabokov, who said he was unsure if he would travel to Russia to pay his respects for any possible memorial services, told NHL.com he has become more worried about air travel since he became a father.
"To be honest with you, I was never a really scared traveler," Nabokov said. "But since I had kids, I'm definitely more scared now. When you go on a plane, you're out of the control. You're in somebody's hands. There's nothing you can do. You just never want to see anything like that."
Added Yashin: "It's tough, because yesterday they were alive and today they're not. It's very, very tough."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL