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Nabokov nearing his return to game action

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Nearly a month after goaltender Evgeni Nabokov left the game after making two saves playing in the first 7:55 against the Montreal Canadiens at Nassau Coliseum, he is ready to return to action. He skated in his second full-team practice Monday morning and was scheduled to fly to Montreal later in the afternoon.

“Nabby is close,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said after practice at Iceworks. “He’s been practicing. Yesterday and today, he had good days.”

The announcement of his return came as the team was boarding the plane for Montreal. Sidelined for nearly a month, Nabokov said he’s feeling much better and is returning “a little bit earlier than predicted.”

Evgeni Nabokov makes the first period save as Erik Cole slides into him at the Nassau Coliseum on November 17, 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Though he’s ahead of the original timeline, he hasn’t rushed the healing process.

“With the goalies, you only go back up only when you’re 100 percent,” Nabokov said. “So I haven’t talked to the coaches, but it looks like I’m going to go off IR.”

He added, “Today was the best I’ve felt the whole week.”

The netminder was placed on injured reserve Nov. 19, retroactive to the Nov. 17 game, when the Islanders went on to beat the Habs, 4-3. Out nearly a month, Nabokov has had plenty of time to watch his teammates transform in the last two weeks.

“I think we had a really good six-game stretch,” Nabokov said. “In this league you have to play a whole 60 minutes and you have to have everybody involved. I think through all the winning process, we got that.”

He continued, “Al (Montoya) played well. Defensively we were pretty good and offensively we were pretty good, which I think was really nice to see the guys have been scoring the goals. That’s how we can put some teams down, scoring all those goals. You can change the momentum and we’ve been able to do that. So it’s been nice to see that.”

With goaltender Rick DiPietro still out with no timetable after suffering a groin injury, and rookie netminder Kevin Poulin returned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers just before 8 p.m. Sunday night, it looks like Nabokov is getting closer to his return.

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