As a member of the Sharks organization from 1994 to 2010, and the franchise goaltender for much of that span, Evgeni Nabokov appeared in nearly 650 regular season and playoff games for San Jose. Today will mark the first time (and likely the only time) he faces his former team as Nabokov and the New York Islanders host Antti Niemi and the Sharks, San Jose's first game on Long Island in nearly two and a half years.
Nabokov had one of his best seasons ever his final year in teal but has declined into ineptitude during his tenure on Long Island, as you'd expect given he's now 38 years old. Nabokov is far from the only reason the Islanders are having a terrible season, mired in last place in the Metropolitan Division, but his .900 SV% that ranks 39th among 43 qualifying goalies certainly hasn't helped.
Islanders GM Garth Snow's refusal to find an upgrade in net last summer remains inexplicable; the Isles were a legitimately competitive team last season and appeared to finally be emerging from decades of irrelevance. With even a league-average netminder, they likely would have toppled the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round but, for whatever reason, Snow decided to stick with Nabby. It hasn't worked out very well, and the rest of the team has largely fallen apart too.
Superstar center John Tavares sustained an injury at the Olympics and was shut down for the season. Matt Moulson was traded early in the year for Thomas Vanek, who was in turn exchanged for some magic beans at the trade deadline last week. Vanek's fellow Austrian forward, speedster Michael Grabner, is now out indefinitely with a concussion. The roster the Sharks are slated to face today resembles AHL Bridgeport more than it does the Islanders. The second half of a back-to-back is always difficult but if there's one the Sharks should be expected to take points from, it's this one. With the chance to leapfrog Anaheim for first place in the division there for the taking, this is an opportunity the Sharks can't squander.
|43-17-7, 93 points
||25-33-9, 59 points|
|2nd in Pacific
||8th in Metropolitan
Projected Sharks Lineup
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Marty Havlat - James Sheppard - Tommy Wingels
Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish - Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan - Justin Braun
Projected Islanders Lineup
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald
Mike Halmo - Casey Cizikas - Johan Sundstrom
Lubomir Visnovsky - Thomas Hickey
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Brian Strait - Matt Donovan