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29 сентября 2003 года. 
Nabokov eager to stop doubts about goaltending - Mercury News

Вy David Pollak

For the Sharks to return to the playoffs after the disaster that was last season, the theory goes, a number of ifs need to fall into place.

The Sharks will succeed . . .

If others can make up for the 50 goals that skated off with Owen Nolan and Teemu Selanne.

If a rookie defenseman or two can play like veterans.

If goalie Evgeni Nabokov can revert to his All-Star form of the previous year.

Hold it right there, suggests the man steering Sharks goalies through training camp. Don't worry about Nabokov.

``I don't think in my mind or his teammates' mind or the coaches' mind or anybody's mind that there are any ifs about it,'' said Wayne Thomas, Sharks assistant general manager and interim goalie coach. ``It was a confusing year for him, last year, but he's got a good base with training camp and he has preseason games under his belt, so he'll be ready.''

Nabokov also sees little reason for one season's problems to carry over into the next. He acknowledges that losing eroded his confidence, but he quickly points out that circumstances have changed.

``This year it's a whole different team and a totally different attitude in the locker room,'' Nabokov said. ``We're ready to go, ready to prove that last year was a little bit of a fluke.''

For the team -- and for individual players.

A contract holdout last year caused Nabokov to miss camp and the first two weeks of the season. He signed a two-year, $7.15 million deal Oct. 22, but he never seemed to get completely back on track. His goals-against-average rose from 2.29 to 2.71 and his save percentage dipped from .918 to .906. His win total, like the team's, plummeted dramatically, from 37 to 19.

So far, Nabokov has justified the expression of faith by Thomas, who has expanded his front-office duties while goalie coach Warren Strelow recuperates at his Minnesota home following a kidney transplant this summer.

Nabokov beat Phoenix 3-0 in his first exhibition start, then held Anaheim scoreless for 50 minutes before yielding two late goals Saturday in a 2-1 loss.

At times in each game, he looked like the goalie who was the NHL's rookie of the year in 2002. Nabokov frustrated the Coyotes' Mike Johnson on a breakaway. Against the Ducks, he robbed Stanislav Chistov on a three-on-one break.

As for the two that got past him, Nabokov said at this time of the year, those can be more valuable than the 46 saves he has made so far.

``Right now, you don't count wins and losses. You count mistakes,'' Nabokov said of the exhibition season. ``You count things you have to work on. You count on what you can build on, how you're in the game, how you do the moment, how you see the play. That's the most important stuff right now.''

He shrugged off the Ducks' first goal, a deflection off teammate Jonathan Cheechoo's skate in a bang-bang play. The second, less than five minutes later off the stick of Ryan Getzlaf, required a little more self-examination.

``He made a good hard shot, and it went under the arm,'' Nabokov said. ``But the position was good. I've just got to squeeze my hands a little bit tighter or get a little bit fatter.''

Goaltenders are known for sticking to routines and Nabokov, 28, said he didn't do anything special to put last season behind him.

He did get married in Half Moon Bay to his longtime girlfriend, Tabitha, whom he met while with the Sharks farm club in Kentucky. But other than that, this summer was spent the same way as the previous five: Working out to stay in shape, then attending Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak's two-week camp in Toronto.

Strelow's absence could have become the kind of distraction the Sharks didn't want to contend with in camp, but Nabokov and others say that hasn't happened.

Thomas and Strelow talk almost daily on the phone. Nabokov and Strelow talk two or three times a week. Beyond that, the team sends tapes to Strelow so he can see how things are progressing until he gets a doctor's clearance to return to San Jose.

Thomas, a former NHL goaltender with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, had Strelow for a teacher when he turned to coaching in 1982. ``The good thing is he's trained both the goalies and myself pretty well,'' Thomas said, ``so it's like we know what to do when we get out there.''

Coach Ron Wilson plans to use Nabokov in two of the remaining three exhibitions before the season begins Oct. 9. And Wilson, too, praises the goalie's efforts to put last season behind him.

``Nabby's worked really hard,'' Wilson said. ``He came to training camp in great shape and with a good attitude.''

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