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The Lightning made the painful decision waive veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, with coach Jon Cooper likening it to cut-down day during training camp.

The team placed Nabokov on waivers on Sunday and recalled rookie goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy from their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. On Monday Nabokov cleared the waivers, but his NHL future is up in the air.

Out of the 11 games Nabokov played for Tampa this season, he has a 3-6-2 record with a 3.15 goals-against average and a .882 save percentage.  The last game he played was on December 11 against the Carolina Hurricanes where he stopped 29-of-30 shots.

‘Nabby,’ was a well-liked member of the team, and their resident jokester. Yet he was wise beyond his years and always there not only to help a fellow player, but the coaches as well.

“He’s been such a good guy for me, such a good teammate, always has a smile on his face, always fun to be around,” Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said. “Whenever you lose a good locker room guy or goalie partner, every year you kind of build friendships with the guys you’re with and it was no different this year. I got along really well with him. He’d give me insight here and there which really helped out.”

As a coach entering his third season in the NHL, Cooper said he was able to learn quite a bit from Nabokov, a 14-year veteran of the league.
“He’d seen and done everything,” Cooper said. “He’s seen things I haven’t seen yet. He was helping not only our players but he helped me in areas. He opens your eyes to things. You look at things differently because of his perspective.”

It could possibly be cited that being a backup goalie for the first time in his career was a factor in his uneven play. For his entire career he was always the starter, but at the age of thirty-nine was now playing backup to Ben Bishop.

Vasilevskiy arrived in Tampa just as the Lightning were coming off of the ice after practice. The 20-year-old had to immediately hop on another plane as the team traveled to St. Louis Monday afternoon.

In his four games with the Lightning this season, he went 3-1. In his one loss he stopped a Lightning rookie record of 45 shots. His 14-5-0 record with the Crunch made it an easy choice to recall him. In his 24 games in Syracuse he has two shutouts, a .919 save percentage, and a 2.38 goals-allowed average.

The Lightning will play eight of their next 12 games on the road, with three different sets of back-t0-backs.
“He’s going to get starts,” Cooper said. “We’re not bringing him here not to get starts.”


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