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Nabokov stars against familar foe in Vancouver

by Kevin Woodley
Evgeni Nabokov may only be 1-3 with the New York Islanders, but he’s got a long history of success against the Vancouver Canucks he can draw upon – or not.

Heading into Sunday’s meeting, Nabokov put little credence in a 14-6-2 record compiled against the Canucks during nine seasons with the San Jose Sharks.

“To be honest with you I never really look at it that way because every game is a little different,” Nabokov said. “They have a little bit different team and I am obviously on a different team, so I don’t ever look in the past and say ‘oh I have that type of record so it is going to be a good game or a bad game.’ ”
The truth is Nabokov is too busy trying to get used to his own team to worry much about the opponent. The veteran Russian’s first season with the Islanders hasn’t been made easier by a three-goalie rotation with Rick Dipietro and Al Montoya. Asked about his adjustment to a new team, Nabokov said, “I would tell you much more if I would play much more, but it’s a little bit different obviously with the rotation of the three goalies. We try to work on certain things in practice.”

Nabokov started the season watching five of the first six games – three from the press box and two more as the backup – then played three straight before getting hurt Oct. 27 against Pittsburgh and sitting out the next three games. He returned in Boston Nov. 7, but only lasted 14 minutes after giving up three goals on 12 shots, and started a two-game western swing back in the press box Thursday in Colorado.

DiPietro will back up Sunday. Al Montoya practiced Saturday in Vancouver, but is being held out for precautionary reasons after getting knocked around during Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Avalanche. Nabokov spent parts of practice stressing communication with his defensemen, all part of the adjustment.

“It’s coming along but always every game is a learning curve to see what certain guys like to do and so how I react to certain things,” Nabokov said after practice Saturday. “I felt like I need to learn more about them and how they like to get open, to hear their voices and what they like to say and all that.”

As for the Canucks, Nabokov is trying not to overthink his history.

“You make things complicated sometimes,” he said. “Just go, react and play and read the play when it is presented. To sit here and think what Sedins going to do, what Kesler going to do, what Salo is going to do, I think I would drive myself nuts.”

The Islanders didn’t skate as a team Sunday morning, but defenseman Milan Jurcina was out for extra work with a couple coaches, a strong indication he will be a healthy scratch for a second-straight game, with Mike Mottau in for him. Nothing is expected to change up front despite having scored the fewest goals (28) in the league, so here are the rest of the lines for Michael Grabner’s return to Vancouver – now on a top line, an opportunity he wouldn’t have gotten with the Canucks:

Michael Grabner - John Tavares - Matt Moulson
Brian Rolston - Frans Nielsen - P.A. Parenteau
Blake Comeau - Marty Reasoner - Kyle Okposo
Jay Pandolfo - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Mike Mottau
Evgeni Nabokov starts, with Rick Dipietro backing up and Al Montoya scratched
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