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 Penguins vs. Capitals Game 2 Pick Will the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have a high-scoring game when they meet up tonight at 8PM ET in Game 2 of their...
Thumbnail Rangers vs. Senators Game 2 Pick Will the Ottawa Senators pick up another win at home when they host the New York Rangers today at 3PM ET in Game 2 of their...
Thumbnail Oilers vs. Ducks Game 2 Pick Will the Anaheim Ducks bounce back from their Game-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers when the two meet up in Game 2 tonight at 10:30PM...
Thumbnail Predators vs. Blues Game 2 Pick Can the St. Louis Blues even up their series with the Nashville Predators when they meet up tonight at 8PM ET?
Thumbnail Penguins vs. Capitals Game 1 Pick Will the Washington Capitalsavoid another slow start to a series when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins...

NHL Team Pages