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|14 сентября 2007
No. 1 Nabokov tends to business // Contra Costa Times
SHARKS GOALIE Evgeni Nabokov showed up for training camp in great shape. Looks like he lost some weight -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 195 pounds.
Or maybe he just looks different now that he's not joined at the hip with Vesa Toskala.
"No different," Nabokov said Wednesday afternoon. "The approach is no different to me. You've got to go on the ice and approach every practice as an important practice. The same with every game."
It's a solid approach. The problem Nabokov had last season was the part about getting on the ice. During the four seasons leading up to the NHL lockout, Nabokov was San Jose's unquestioned No. 1 goalie, averaging 62 games and 3,571 minutes. When the NHL resumed play after the lost season, Nabokov resumed his role as the Sharks' alpha goalie.
But shortly after signing a contract extension in February 2006, he found himself the proud owner of a sports hernia. Toskala stepped in and acquitted himself so nicely during the balance of the season (including playoffs) that he earned a promotion.
When training camp opened last September, Nabokov and Toskala were anointed co-starters. If you think Nabokov took the news stoically then, you should hear him now -- even though, Toskala having been over-nighted to Toronto during the summer, there's no real percentage in faking sincerity.
"(Coach) Ron (Wilson) told us we were going to alternate games, and
that's the approach we took," Nabokov said. "It doesn't really matter whether
That part of Nabokov's game suffered during his injury-riddled 2005-06 season. He won just 16 of his 45 starts, and his goals-against average (3.10) and save percentage (.885) were career worsts.
That was the reason Toskala was brought back last season, as a hedge against a continued backslide by Nabokov.
Ultimately, though, the need for two top dogs ran its course. Nabokov's numbers (25 wins in 50 starts, 2.29, .914) returned to his career standards. When Toskala tweaked a groin just after the All-Star break, Nabokov became the full-time starter. He started all 11 postseason games.
But all that is history, which is why you'd expect candor to be the order of the day as the Sharks open training camp. You'll get plenty from Nabokov. Just not the kind you might expect.
"It didn't really matter to me," he said. "Maybe to the team, yes. But not to me. Since Day 1, I've had good teachers throughout my career. First my dad, then when I came (to the United States from Russia), Warren (Strelow). His attitude was, only control what you can control."
Strelow, the Sharks' longtime goalie coach, died last spring. Nabokov took it hard but keeps applying the lessons -- life, and otherwise -- he learned from his mentor. Toskala also is a Strelow disciple, and perhaps this explains how two strong-willed athletes competed for the same job and still remained friends.
And maybe it's why, when you suggest that it isn't always this way, that once upon a time you could have frosted a beer mug by sitting it on a table between Joe Montana and Steve Young, Nabokov gives you a look that suggests you have your skates on the wrong feet.
"We'd been together since 2000, 2001," Nabokov said. "We spent a lot of time together here, and in Minnesota where (Strelow's) camp used to be. It's never been a problem. We compete on the ice, and outside of the ice we're good friends.
"It's always been that way for me here. When Kipper (Miikka Kiprusoff) was here, we were friends. With Shieldsy (Steve Shields), I was the new guy. I'm lucky. We've always had good guys here. That's why when you ask these questions, to me it sounds funny."
In fairness, Shields didn't do much laughing as a young Nabokov cut into his playing time. Maybe Nabby remembers it the way he wants to remember it. Or maybe he's simply a guy who doesn't fluster easily. And if so, isn't that a trait you want in a goalie? At any rate, this is a different training camp. There are no major personnel decisions to be made, the Sharks having addressed another unsatisfying second-round playoff ouster by standing largely pat (team motto: "Try your best, repeat as necessary").
As for Nabokov, he insists his focus and his playing weight are the
same as they ever were. If that sounds funny to you, notice that he isn't