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|31 декабря 2007
Marathon man role fits Nabokov to a 'T' // Minneapolis Star Tribune
By KENT YOUNGBLOOD
Monday's start was the 39th of the season for San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, continuing his status as the NHL's marathon man this season.
He has started every game for the Sharks this season.
No goaltender has made more starts, played more minutes -- or won more games. And it points out two different strategies when it comes to keeping the nets minded.
The Wild, for example, have always preferred to split time between two goaltenders. Manny Fernandez's 58 games in the 2005-06 season is the club record.
Most of the teams in the NHL feel the same way. Eighteen of the league's teams have had two goaltenders start 10 or more games.
There are some other ironmen. Entering Monday's games, 11 goaltenders had made at least 30 starts. But Nabokov tops the list. And, so far, all that work has done him good.
He leads the league in victories, is third in shutouts (five) and goals-against average (1.99) and 10th in save percentage (.919). Nabokov was a workhorse for the Sharks in 2000-01 and 2001-02, when he started 66 and 67 games respectively. Last season he started only 50, splitting time with Vesa Toskala.
But the Sharks sent Toskala and Mark Bell to Toronto for a trio of draft picks in June. So, with rookie Dimitri Patzold as backup, Sharks coach Ron Wilson has gone with Nabokov night after night.
"Things have been going well for them," Wild goaltender coach Bob Mason said. "So, they're sticking with it. And he still has juice left. It will be interesting to see if he still has juice at the end of the year for the playoff run."
That is the danger, Mason said. The job of tending goal every night is taxing, more mentally than physically. And more so, according to Mason, than it was years ago.
"Playing 75 games a year is hard," he said. "Because so many of the games are close and intense. There aren't a lot of easy nights, let's put it that way. Some nights, back in the day, it was run-and-gun. You'd to into Pittsburgh and you'd win 7-2. There was less high-pressure time.
"Now, you have to bear down. Every game, it seems there are 10 minutes left to go in the third and it's tied or a one-goal game. Those are critical moments."
Mason has seen what a long string of starts can do. Fernandez started 16 in a row for the Wild early last season, and Mason said it was hard on him.
Nabokov was sharp Monday, running his personal shutout streak at Xcel Energy Center past 160 minutes before Dominic Moore's third-period goal.