In a journey that started in a galaxy not far from our own, but in a time that seemed light years away...the Islanders franchise netminder Rick DiPietro has finally reached the end of his road to recovery and is set as the starter tonight in Dallas.
If you have not been following along, in early December, DiPietro was assigned to the Islanders AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Soundtigers, for a conditioning stint. DiPietro was to play in an unspecified amount of games, but would not play a complete game during his brief stay in Connecticut.
Instead, DiPietro would start in one—and only play two periods. He cited "tightness" as a concern after the game and was sidelined once again.
The team erred on the side of caution and shuffled DiPietro to several doctors for help. Claiming the problem was corrected, DiPietro was again cleared for practice and, under cloak and dagger type secrecy, was shuttled back to the Soundtigers for another conditioning stint.
This time around in the AHL, DiPietro would play in two complete games and suffer losses in both, making his conditioning record 1-2-0 with a 3.31 GAA and .883 save percentage.
Fast forward to Wednesday night in Colorado; DiPietro had been undergoing full practices with the team since his official recall from Bridgeport, ending his conditioning assignment. He served as Dwayne Roloson's backup in a 3-2 win over the Avalanche.
It was technically DiPietro's first NHL "action" since over a year ago when the Islanders lost 5-4 against the Phoenix Coyotes. You could tell that, even though he was on the bench, his eyes were wide and he was very much a part of everything going on around him.
DiPietro's last meeting with the Dallas Stars came in November of 2006, a 3-0 Islanders win in which he made 35 saves. Realistically, it wouldn't be fair to expect a similar result tonight after missing what seemed like a lifetime of NHL hockey; but knowing DiPietro's competitive nature we should still see a great game out of him.
For a young man in the prime of his career, several concussions, two hip surgeries, and a handful of knee surgeries seemed to put a damper on the excitement surrounding Rick DiPietro. Now that the player and the team are out of that scary area surrounding DiPietro, they find themselves with a problem not many teams have—THREE No. 1 goaltenders.
Garth Snow has some work to do, and it may just involve trading Marty Biron—providing DiPietro stays healthy now and in the near future.
Things are looking up here in Islanders Country. Tonight is a big night for the team—and Rick DiPietro. It's been a long hard journey, let's hope we never experience that type of situation ever again.