January 22, 2011

Isles Topple Sabres as Lawson Gets Injured; More Nabokov

The Isles 5-2 win over the Sabres had a little bit of everything in it, including another strong relief appearance from a back-up goalie.

Nathan Lawson got injured near the end of the first period which was a shame because he was looking pretty strong. He seemed to hurt his knee on one play, but played the remainder of the period despite looking very uncomfortable. He wasn't tested to hard for those last few minutes, and wouldn't return to the ice after the intermission. But more on this later.

Kevin Poulin came in and was very good in relief. He looked shaky at the beginning but settled in and made some big saves, stopping 26 of 28 shots.

In general, the Isles played well but in the 3rd when the Sabres kept pressing Poulin was able to stand tall and make some key saves. He only gave up two goals to Nathan Gerbe, both five seconds apart from one another.

Michael Grabner had another solid game, scoring two goals. Prior to getting the empty-netter for his second, he tried to get goals for other teammates on the ice as he passed to Kyle Okposo and then later on the shift, Travis Hamonic. Both missed their opportunities, so when Grabner pressed and stole the puck for a 3rd time on the shift, he just scored it himself. Those were classy moves by him though. I'm liking more and more about him as a player and a person each day.

Dylan Reese has been looking worse as time goes on here. Last year, he was solid. This year he's not getting many minutes, and each game lately seems to be falling or horribly out of position or doing something else that makes me notice him in a negative way. Losing Milan Jurcina for another 2-4 weeks hurts big time.

The Islanders return home for the 2nd part of this home and home on Sunday, as they play the Sabres for the 3rd time this week. Rick DiPietro is expected to practice Saturday while we hopefully get more of an evaluation on Nathan Lawson.

NABOKOV UPDATE: We'll switch gears again for now, leaving the goalie with zero NHL wins to discuss one with 293 - Evgeni Nabokov. At numerous points during the telecast, Howie Rose and Butch Goring talked about the Isles potentially putting in a claim for the goalie. Lawson's injury only intensified that.

Of course, we don't know the extent of the injury. It was his knee, and we can't get any confirmation on if it was the same one that was giving him problems throughout training camp and at the beginning of the season. If Lawson is out for any extended period of time, then there is a good chance this happens. But will the Isles know in time?

Claiming Nabokov regardless really can't be a bad move no matter how you slice it. The Isles get to add a name - some excitement, if you will - to a season that is rapidly approaching it's expiration date. It'll give the fans something to watch, and still send out that message that you are doing all you can to win until you are mathematically eliminated.

DiPietro is still going through maintenance days and scheduled off days, while Lawson has looked pretty underwhelming. Meanwhile, as Chris Botta pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the plan for Poulin all along has been for him to go down to Bridgeport no matter how good he has been. Is that still the plan now? It should be. As good as he has looked he's not quite there yet. We're better off with him being a starter every night in the AHL.

Nabokov, meanwhile, gets to play in the NHL and prove that he still has the goods to be a starter in the league. It was originally thought that he would refuse to report to certain teams, but his agent Don Meehan has since come out and refuted that, saying Nabokov "wants visibility for next season." It would not make any sense for a 35-year-old to sit out a season just because a lower seeded team claimed him on waivers.

Then of course you have the price, which is essentially peanuts. It's right up the Isles alley and something that some people out there think will happen. It's very hard to find anyone around the NHL who actually thinks Nabokov will end up in Detroit after noon on Saturday, including members of the Red Wings organization.

For those who have been confused by the waiver process in this unique case, Bob McKenzie of TSN has an excellent post detailing all of the various scenarios that can happen. It's a good read that provides a ton of clarifications on things that can and can't be done regarding trades, re-waiving and what it would take to end up with Detroit. Really odd stuff. I can say that after reading it, I agree with Blues President John Davidson 100% - this process needs to be looked at heavily during the upcoming CBA negotiations (the Blues fell victim to this rule twice this month when they tried to sign Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood out of the KHL but lost them on waivers to Nashville and San Jose, respectively).

As of now, I stick by my prediction that the Isles will ultimately pass on Nabokov. If it were me though, I would claim him regardless of Lawson's injury for some of the reason's I posted above. I am hoping that the Isles do claim him, more so to do right by Poulin.

We'll see noon Saturday. Be sure to check back for thoughts and analysis when and if something happens (or doesn't).



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