BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro is back in action for the first time in nearly a year.
The oft-injured DiPietro began a two-week conditioning assignment with Bridgeport of the AHL on Saturday night and allowed three goals on 13 shots in a 7-3 win against Springfield.
“It was good to get back in there, shake the rust off. It’s been a long time,” DiPietro said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
With Islanders owner Charles Wang and general manager Garth Snow watching the team’s franchise goalie from a suite, DiPietro played two periods for the Sound Tigers. He faced 10 shots in the second period.
In the past two years, the 28-year-old DiPietro had surgery on both hips and both knees. He last played an NHL game on Jan. 2 and made only five appearances with the Islanders last season.
He said he felt good physically, but the big test will be how he feels Sunday.
“I didn’t expect to go out there and feel like I played last week,” said DiPietro, who is in the fourth season of a landmark 15-year contract with New York.
His final stop Saturday was his best, a quick-reaction glove save on Vladimir Trukhno from the slot. As is his style, DiPietro left the crease often to play the puck. One early giveaway led to one of the Falcons’ three shots in the first period, hardly a test for DiPietro.
“It’s tough on a goalie not to see many shots. We were flying in the first period,” DiPietro said. “That’s what you’ve got to deal with. That’s stuff you can’t replicate in practice.”
The fourth shot was Johan Motin’s slapper from above the right circle. The drive went between DiPietro’s legs 1:52 into the second.
Geoff Paukovich scored on a backhander over DiPietro’s blocker from the goalie’s left off a blocked shot. Bill Thomas stuffed in a pass at the left post six minutes later.
“Would I have liked to play better? Probably,” DiPietro said.
DiPietro is expected to make two more starts in the AHL by Dec. 15 before returning to the Islanders. New York has been using a veteran goalie tandem of Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron this season while waiting for DiPietro to recover.