Nabby Returns, But For How Long?

Evgeni Nabokov (Robert Kowal/Flickr)The Islanders announced on their home page yesterday that goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was close to making his return to the Islanders line-up. 

Per the Isles official web-site: 

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

This is a great sign for the Islanders as they could use a little more back-bone in net behind Al Montoya. Rick DiPietro is still without a set date on the calendar for a return to action and Kevin Poulin was returned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Tuesday.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Nabokov's injury may increase his value by the time of the trade deadline. He is a veteran goaltender with plenty of playoff experience coming back into game action in the middle of December. The trade deadline will be sometime around the end of February. 

There is a good chance that demand will be higher, especially if teams in playoff contention are searching for veteran stability in net. But at the same time, Rick DiPietro's about-face turn to the Injured Reserve may cause Isles General Manager Garth Snow to be a little bit more cautious with his potential trade bait. The Islanders, despite sitting 14th in the Eastern Conference, are only seven points out of the playoffs. A win tomorrow night can change that to five, and there is still plenty of hockey left to be played for the rest of the year. 

It's possible that Nabokov might be kept around a bit longer than expected. My guess is that he will be here up near until the clock strikes 3:00 PM on deadline day. But other than that, this team was on a roll before their last loss to the Penguins and I am not sure if Snow will risk jeopardizing that type of play with a trade.

However, there is another way of looking at this situation; this team was playing perfectly fine in front of Al Montoya, and the team believes that Kevin Poulin will eventually be a regularly dressed goaltender in an Islanders uniform. Trading Nabokov after only a few games might be a sign that Snow wouldn't want to mess with any of the chemistry that is flowing through that locker room, especially if it was bringing in points on a consistent basis. And who knows? A Nabokov trade might address an area on the roster that lacks more than the goaltending department, like on defense. 

What are your expectations for Nabokov's return?

-Rob McGowan