|For the Islanders, and for Russia. (Imago/Legion Media)|
Greg Wyshynski, Editor of Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog, posted a story on New York Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov this afternoon - basically, a candid interview. Some of the topics covered were Ilya Kovalchuk (he supports Kovy), returning to the KHL (no), and battling for a spot on the Russian National team for the Sochi Games in February 2014.
When asked by R-Sport whether he would be OK making the Russian team as a third goalie, Nabokov made it clear that he doesn't appreciate the guess-work placement:
Nabokov also acknowledged how important this upcoming season is for him, not just from an Islanders standpoint, but for his chances to play on Russia's National Team in front of his home-based fans:R-Sport: Are you ready to go to the Olympics even as the third goaltender?
E.N.: I do not understand why everyone considers me a reserve player. We have a coaching staff, and none of them has said anything about who will be the first goaltender and who will be the second or third. I am happy to be on the national team, and that is enough.
R-Sport: In Russia, all the talk about hockey boils down to February and Sochi. Won’t the thoughts of February prevent you from preparing and playing for the Islanders in the upcoming months?Isles fans: This affects you. We should all be thrilled.
E.N.: Everyone understands that this is the year of the Olympics, and the Games are very important for the country. However, you should understand that playing for our own club is no less important. Moreover, one supplements the other here: If you play badly for the club, you will not get to the Olympics.
Therefore, each of us thinks about playing the first club game and later we will think about the second game; and then, in February, we will think about the Olympics. Now we have to prove to the coaches that we deserve to play on the national team, and I can only do this with the help of good games with the Islanders. Believe me: I will not be thinking 24/7 about the Olympics.
Nabokov has made his statement. He's going into the 2013-14 Islanders season with motivation. Not only will Nabby be gearing up to take on "greater challenges" with John Tavares and Co., but he will be doing so with the intention of proving himself as one of the top Russian goalies in the world.
The Isles starting goaltender understands what's at stake: if he plays poorly with the Islanders, he will not make the Russian National Team; however, a great start can get him his spot, meaning a spot at redemption for his last appearance in the Olympics - six goals allowed in the medal round against Team Canada. A great start would also mean the Islanders will be in the hunt for a second consecutive playoff berth through the beginning of the season, something they have struggled with throughout their entire rebuild.
In 2013-14, there will be little room for error for Nabokov. He knows it, and Isles fans should expect to receive Nabby's best play as an Islander yet. So please, keep telling Nabby that he won't be Russia's Olympic starting goalie. I want the Islanders to get the best Nabokov possible.
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!