DiPietro Begins NHL Comeback Path
"There's still a lot of work to be done," said DiPietro, after Bridgeport's 7-3 win over Springfield.
Suiting up for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League, DiPietro allowed three goals on just ten shots over those two periods in his first game in almost a year. His first period was a breeze as he effortlessly handled all three easy shots he faced, but the second period exposed the rust on the 28-year-old goaltender.
Facing his first challenging shot of the game, DiPietro allowed a harmless, traffic-free slap shot from Springfield defenseman Johan Motin to sail through his five-hole. Springfield then received goals from Geoff Paukovich and Bill Thomas. For the period, DiPietro allowed three goals on seven shots.
"You can only do so much in practice," said DiPietro. "It was a real pleasure to be out there today. It was good to shake off the rust."
More crucial than the result, the Islanders' goaltender reported no pain after the game.
"[Sunday] is the big day," said DiPietro, who played before a crowd of approximately 1,500 at Bridgeport's Arena at Harbor Yard, including Islanders owner Charles Wang, general manager Garth Snow and goaltending consultant Sudarshan Majaraj. "I'll do my treatment in a little while. Hopefully, I'll wake up tomorrow feeling good."
The goalie, an NHL all-star in 2007-2008 and starter for Team USA at the 2006 Winter Olympics, last played on Jan. 2 in Phoenix. Two weeks later, the Islanders shut down DiPietro for the season. He played only five games in 2008-09 after having surgeries to repair a torn meniscus in June 2008 and then arthroscopic surgery on Oct. 31, 2008 to repair a second tear in the meniscus.
After playing for the U.S. Olympic Team in 2006, DiPietro had his best season as a pro in 2006-07, going 32-19-9 with a 2.52 goals against average and .919 save percentage while leading the Islanders to the playoffs. Then the injuries really kicked in -- consecutive off-season surgeries on both hips and surgeries on the knee.
Next up for DiPietro is a second AHL start -- either next Friday in Springfield or Saturday in Hartford. Count on DiPietro to have at least one more tuneup on Tuesday, Dec. 15 when Bridgeport hosts Portland. With veterans Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron in net, the Islanders have received strong goaltending and have no need to rush DiPietro's rehabilitation.
The Islanders will be cautious, as they have for the entire calendar year. If DiPietro regains his form and conditioning, he could be back with the Islanders before Christmas.
But by the looks of his debut on Saturday, DiPietro still has a ways to go.