SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -Evgeni Nabokov only took five games off last year, so the San Jose Sharks' workhorse goalie is grateful he's just about finished with an unwanted three-week vacation this fall.
After missing seven games with a lower-body injury, Nabokov will start for the NHL-leading Sharks on Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. He felt ready to play for most of the past week, but coach Todd McLellan refused to rush his franchise goalie back into action before he was fully ready.
``It's been how many, three weeks?'' Nabokov said after a full practice Monday. ``You've got to get back in it and make sure everything is the way it was. I'm looking forward to it.''
San Jose (17-3-1) was able to be cautious with its Vezina Trophy finalist because of the outstanding relief work of Brian Boucher, the well-traveled veteran backup who went 5-1-1 in Nabokov's absence. Boucher has won four straight starts, including Saturday's 7-2 victory over Washington with Nabokov back in uniform as his backup.
Boucher even has a better goals-against average (1.88) and save percentage (.928) than Nabokov (2.71 and .891) this season, but there's no goalie competition in San Jose. After spending much of last season in the AHL waiting for another big-league chance, Boucher is content for the moment with a supporting role on his sixth NHL club.
Nabokov had won five straight starts when he was hurt on the final save of a shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 6. McLellan said Nabokov might make a handful of back-to-back starts in December, even with Boucher ready to roll.
``He was chomping on the bit last week,'' McLellan said. ``He's got to get back into the groove, and we're going to give him the opportunity to do that.''
Boucher's steady presence is just one difference in the Sharks' approach compared to last season, when Nabokov played 77 games partly because the club didn't trust his backups until Boucher's arrival in late February. A team that once leaned heavily on its star players now has veteran depth at every position after general manager Doug Wilson's offseason adjustments to a club that finished with the NHL's second-best record last year, but lost in the playoffs' second round.
join the play.
``I don't think we've had a bad defense in the last four or five years,'' Nabokov said. ``I think we're just scoring more goals, and that makes everything better. As long as the guys are taking care of their responsibilities on the other end, we'll be fine.''

Top NHL Public Bets

NHL Top Stories

Thumbnail Sharks vs. Blues Game 5 Pick Which team will take a key 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals tonight as the St. Louis Blueshost the San Jose Sharks...
Thumbnail Lightning vs. Penguins Game 5 Pick Will the Pittsburgh Penguins take care of home ice in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight...
Thumbnail Blues vs. Sharks Game 4 Pick Can the San Jose Sharks stay tough at home and establish a commanding lead in the Western Conference Finals when they host the St. Louis Blues at...
Thumbnail Penguins vs. Lightning Game 4 Pick Can the Tampa Bay Lightning even up the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins when...
Thumbnail Blues vs. Sharks Game 3 Pick Who will establish the lead in the Eastern Conference Finals when the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues meet...
More inNHL Articles  

NHL Top Stories

Thumbnail Sharks vs. Blues Game 5 Pick Which team will take a key 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals tonight as the St. Louis Blueshost the San Jose Sharks...
Thumbnail Lightning vs. Penguins Game 5 Pick Will the Pittsburgh Penguins take care of home ice in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight...
Thumbnail Blues vs. Sharks Game 4 Pick Can the San Jose Sharks stay tough at home and establish a commanding lead in the Western Conference Finals when they host the St. Louis Blues at...
Thumbnail Penguins vs. Lightning Game 4 Pick Can the Tampa Bay Lightning even up the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins when...
Thumbnail Blues vs. Sharks Game 3 Pick Who will establish the lead in the Eastern Conference Finals when the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues meet...
More inNHL Articles  

NHL Team Pages