Evgeni Nabokov's Minor Injury Could Hurt New York Islanders' Struggling Offense

Michael DeSantisSenior Analyst IOctober 28, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 27:  Evgeni Nabokov #20 of the New York Islanders can't make the save on a goal by James Neal #18 (not pictured) of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on October 27, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Islanders 3-2 in a shootout.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Last night in Pittsburgh, a head-scratching event happened right before the shootout.

I'm sure all Islanders fans, myself included, were shocked when they saw Rick DiPietro hop over the boards to replace Evgeni Nabokov to start the shootout.

At first, we thought it was fatigue that made Nabokov decide to sit, but it turns out it was a lower body injury he sustained in the first period.

So, why didn't Nabby come out in the first? According to the Islanders official website, “'[Nabokov] battled for us as long as he could,' Isles coach Jack Capuano said. 'I could have taken him out before that, but he battled, and at that point in time, I thought it was best for the team and for Nabby. He gave us everything he had, and that’s why the decision was made.'”

So, Nabokov played hurt for the last two periods and overtime. Thing is: nobody would have known he was playing hurt.

Nabokov was amazing last night, stopping 30 shots and only allowing two goals. The goals weren't even his fault. One of the pucks was a nice easy tap-in in the crease. The other was a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play scored by James Neal.

Honestly, most of the goals that Nabby has given up this season weren't really his fault. He's had to face some breakaways and one-timers in the slot. In my opinion, Nabokov has looked like the Isles' top goaltender between him, DiPietro and Al Montoya.

So far this season, Nabby has a 1-2-0 record but owns a save percentage of .927 and a 2.23 goals-against average.

He's been listed as day-to-day with the lower body injury, but hopefully he doesn't miss that many games.

He literally stole that point for the Isles last night, and he has looked solid in all four of his starts this season. He and Montoya have had to steal a few wins to make up for the Islanders' lackluster offense so far.

The Islanders offense has only scored 20 goals in eight games this season, an average of just over two goals per game. They're really going to need to step it up soon before they fall too far behind in the Eastern Conference.

Hopefully, Montoya and DiPietro can hold fort and secure some victories until Nabokov returns. Because if Nabokov can come back and play like he has been, he'll be able to steal many games for the Islanders this season.