SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Evgeni Nabokov
looked at the tumult around him in the New York Islanders
locker room and smiled.
Nabokov, the winningest goaltender in the history of the San Jose Sharks
, is trying to re-start his NHL career at age 36 after a season that began in the KHL and ended with him signing with Detroit, being claimed on waivers by the Islanders and opting not to report.
The Islanders retained his rights for this season. Now he's one of six goaltenders – and easily the oldest – looking for a job. It's something he hasn't had to do for more than a decade, but he said the pressure to perform is nothing new.
"It's been like this forever," he said. "You have young guys pushing you from behind, and you have other competitors step up all the time. You don't want to feel too comfortable. You always feel the break in the back, and that's what makes everybody better."
Nabokov hasn't played competitively since leaving SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL midway through last season, and admitted that getting his timing back will take some work – though he looked sharp in the first-day drills at Iceworks.
"It's easier to get in practice shape," he said, "but it's going to take a little while to get into game shape – you have to adjust to the angle shots, stuff like that. That may take some time – but maybe not. I don't know.
"I felt pretty good today. Nothing was bothering me, so that was good."
Nabokov looks younger than 36 and got a laugh when a reporter told him how young he looked, but said that coming to such a young team was a big change after spending a decade in San Jose.
"It's unbelievable. It's such a young group," he said with a smile. "I think it's the first time I've been around so many young players – so many young, talented kids. It's great."