will receive his season-high 10th straight start and playing time in his 11th straight game.
During Thursday morning’s availability with the press, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano announced goaltender
“Nabby has got the starts the last 10 games here and he’s playing well,” Capuano said. “If you look back at his history, he’s a guy that has played a lot of hockey. We feel comfortable putting him back in there.”
As the veteran goaltender hunts for his fourth straight home win, he also hunts for his 300th career win. No doubt, a major milestone for any goaltender in this league, reaching 300 wins is an accomplishment only 26 NHL netminders have achieved. Only three are still active: Martin Brodeur, Nikolai Khabibulin and Roberto Luongo.
"He’s been in the league forever. He played really well. Last game, he made the key save on their power play in the first period. Saves like that are just key to get our win. We play with a lot of confidence back there because we know Nabby is so calm. He helps us a lot. It’s great to have him back there."
"Overall as a group, Nabby and the defensemen, we have to talk as much as possible because it makes the game so much easier for every one of us. But especially when he can’t see the puck or when he feels like the puck needs to get out of the zone, he talks a lot. Last game, we communicated really well."
Of the five netminders that have dressed in a game for the Islanders this season, Nabokov has played in the most games (18), while his 2.66 goals against average and .910 save percentage are second on the team. And with Al Montoya
(concussion) and Rick DiPietro
(groin) out of the lineup, he’s been the steady man in the crease and he’s looked sharper with each passing game.
“It’s like anything else,” Capuano said. “Now that he’s played a lot of games and it hasn’t been played two, sit a couple, play another one, he’s been able to get in a little bit of a groove and play a lot of hockey.”
Earlier in the season there was talk about the difficulty of working with a three goaltender system. But with injuries, the rotation of netminders hasn’t really come in to play. However, having a consistent body in the net has helped with the team’s confidence.
“Having the same guy in net on a consistent basis, the goalie and defensemen have good communication,” Capuano said. “They’re talking all the time; they’re playing together through this stretch. To me, Nabby is a guy that plays much better when he plays more.”
Communication with the team’s defense is important.
“As a former defenseman, and as much game tape as we break down as coaches, the communication factor is number one,” Capuano said. “There are a lot of goalie-defense exchanges. I’m not looking at his angle so much or where he is in his crease, but I look at the compete and battle level like we do in all our other players. That’s one thing that he does. He doesn’t quit on pucks and he’s made some tremendous saves this year with second and third efforts.”
His 299th career win was a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, just two days ago. Though he kept the Red Wings off the score sheet through the first 42:36 of play, his most remarkable save of the game kept the game scoreless and the Isles with the momentum. At 17:18 of the first period, the Red Wings were on the power play and doing a good job cycling the puck when Nabokov was forced to make a second effort save on Valtteri Filppula.
Highlights vs. Detroit Red Wings 1/10
*Click HERE to view photo gallery.*
“In that first period, he made a great save against a team that had a great chance,” Capuano said. “It looked like an empty net goal from the bench, but his ability to move laterally, to have that second effort that we needed to come across and get his paddle on the puck was a huge save for us. He’s a competitive guy. He battles extremely well.”
Though he’s been getting in a lot of the action, and with other goaltending options, Capuano isn’t worried that he’ll overwork the 11-year NHL veteran.
“After every game, we sit down as a coaching staff,” Capuano said. “We really get our goalie coaches involved in the determination and decisions that we make to see how he feels, how he’s doing in practice and if he needs a day. I think, at that position, even if you don’t see a lot of shots, it’s still mentally fatiguing. We’ll monitor it after every game and get a feel for what our goalie coaches think.”
For now, Nabokov will make his 10th consecutive start Thursday night and will do whatever he can to help the Islanders defeat one of their toughest opponents and division rival Philadelphia Flyers.