After a day off on Wednesday, the Islanders returned to the grind and hit the ice at Iceworks for practice. Evgeni Nabokov
was busy in his day off, however, signing a one-year extension with the Isles. His teammates were happy about the news.
“I was very excited when I saw that yesterday,” Frans Nielsen
, who recently inked a four-year deal, said. “Everybody in here is pumped that he is back next year. He’s one of the best goalies in the league.”
Nabokov is 17-18-3 this season and 11-7-3 in his last 21 games. What can’t be conveyed in his stats are the games and points he’s stolen for the Islanders, especially with a depleted blueline in early February.
“He’s had a great year and bailed us out of a lot of games,” Mark Streit
said after practice Thursday. “I’m really relieved that he’s staying.”
The Islanders are getting a goaltender with 300-plus wins and a player a leader and a quality teammate with a veteran presence.
“Some goalies are a little bit quieter or a little different,” Streit said. “He’s a great locker room guy. He’s been to the playoffs, so he knows how to get there, how to win and that’s priceless.”
Nabokov has 80 playoff games under his belt, with 40 wins and two conference finals appearances, 2004 and 2010. He represented Russia at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympic Games and was named the best goalkeeper at the 2008 IIHF World Championships, where he led Russia to gold.
With Nielsen, John Tavares
and other young players signing extensions in the last year, they see it as a vote of confidence in the team and the trajectory in which they believe they are heading.
“It’s great to see a guy like him want to stay here,” Nielsen said. “He really knows what it takes to be a top team and if he didn’t believe that we could be that, I don’t think he would be here.”
He really knows what it takes to be a top team and if he didn’t believe that we could be that, I don’t think he would be here.” - Frans Nielsen
The signing also reflects the change of culture on Long Island. After admittedly having trouble attracting players, Nabokov’s extension embodies a positive change and goes a long way to reversing that reputation.
“It means once you get here, you love to play here,” Tavares said. “And you want to be a part of turning things around back to where we want to be. I’m glad he was able to see that and want to be a part of it for another year.”
Looking out from his crease, Nabokov likes what he sees. Looking back at their goal, the Islanders like what they see, too.