Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov turns 37 this year. A year ago he sat out most of the season after an unhappy stint in Russia’s KHL.
He signed with the Red Wings as a free agent, but the Islanders claimed him on waivers. Nabokov refused to report, so the Isle retained his rights for this season.
Grudgingly, Nabokov finally showed. The Islanders are happy he did, since has turned back the clock in recent weeks to play as well as he did for the San Jose Sharks back in the day.
In December Nabokov was 3-3-0 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. So far in January he is 5-3-0 with a 2.37 GAA and .911 save percentage.
Along the way he earned his 300th NHL victory.
“I want to keep playing because I’m not ready to look back,” Nabokov told reporters after reaching that milestone. “I am having fun doing my job.”
The Islanders seemed poised for a big second-half push, a prospect Nabokov finds energizing. “I’m enjoying the guys here and I want to keep working toward the playoffs,” he said.
Nabokov will gain his professional freedom after this season. If he keeps up his current pace, he will reestablish his market value.
The Islanders might like to keep him, but the team has Rick DiPietro under contract for another nine seasons as $4.5 million per year. He is sidelined until next season after undergoing his latest operation, hernia surgery.
“This is something I thought would just heal up and go away, and instead it got more and more debilitating,” DiPietro told Newsday. “I’m almost bionic at this point.”
That’s one word for it.