Isles head coach Jack Capuano said starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will miss a minimum of two weeks to a groin injury. Nabokov injured his groin early in the opening period of last night’s 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Nabokov allowed a goal on the only shot he faced and left the game after playing just over four minutes.
The game was riddled with injuries ranging from Nabokov’s serious injury to various minor in-game mishaps, from which players returned without incident.
In an interview between periods, Isles forward Frans Nielsen gave support to his team’s starting netminder since the 2011-12 season. He referred to Nabokov as an elite goaltender, and indicated the team plays with confidence while he’s in goal for them.
The injury to Nabokov opens the door for backup Kevin Poulin to put together a string of games. Poulin has, to this point in the year, started more than two in a row just once. After stepping in for Nabokov in a relief capacity against the Wings Poulin’s record improved to 3-5 with a 2.51 goals-against average. His career record stands at ten wins with fourteen losses and a 2.68 goals-against average. His best bid this season for the first shutout of his career was snatched away late in the third period against Nashville on Tuesday. Predators’ winger Patrick Hornqvist scored to break the shutout with just 5:30 remaining in the game.
The injury to Nabokov gives Poulin an opportunity to establish himself as a bona fide NHL starter, but the long-term implications for the Islanders may be less optimistic. Even if Poulin steps to the forefront and raises his game to the next level, the injury to Nabokov further emphasizes the team’s lack of depth at the goaltending position. Bridgeport starter Anders Nilsson will very likely get the call to back up Poulin. But Nilsson has struggled this season, and any scenario involving one of the goalies in the system being forced into an NHL game at this point would be undesirable.
For now the team’s best hope is that Poulin elevates his game, the team continues to generate offense at their current level, and as a whole they are able to avoid any more injuries to key players – particularly between the pipes.