New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro is headed for another operation that could once again cut his season short.
The Islanders on Friday confirmed a report in Newsday that the injury-plagued goalie will have surgery Tuesday to repair a sports hernia and may not play again this season. DiPietro hasn't played since leaving the Islanders' game in Dallas on Dec. 3 with a groin injury. The paper says the injury nagged him long enough that the more serious sports hernia was discovered by the team's medical staff.
"This is something I thought would just heal up and go away, and instead it got more and more debilitating," DiPietro told Newsday on Thursday from Boston, where he will have the surgery. "I'm almost bionic at this point."
GM Garth Snow told the paper the best-case scenario for DiPietro's return would be the beginning of April. The regular season ends April 9.
It's the latest in a series of health problems for the 30-year-old goaltender, who was the first player taken in the 2000 NHL Draft and signed a 15-year contract in the summer of 2006.
DiPietro had the best season of his career in the first year after signing the contract, going 31-29-9 with a 2.58 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and five shutouts in 2006-07 despite missing a month after suffering a concussion in March. He was superb again in the first half of the 2007-08 season, earning the start for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game.
But DiPietro injured his hip during the skills competition the night before the game in Atlanta and struggled in the second half before being shut down for the season in March and undergoing hip surgery.
Since then, he has played only 47 games -- just eight this season -- while undergoing a myriad of surgeries. He had another on his hip and one on his left knee in the summer of 2008, a second knee operation in January 2009 and surgery to repair facial fractures after a fight with Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson last February. He has also battled numerous groin and knee problems that have kept him off the ice for lengthy stretches of time.
DiPietro still has nine years left on his contract and told Newsday he has no plans to retire. "Nothing like that has even crossed my mind," he said. "Knock on wood, the doctors have said this is something you can come back from, lots of athletes have. I know I still want to play."
Snow told the paper neither he nor owner Charles Wang has broached the issue of retirement with DiPietro.
"I have confidence he can get through this," Snow said. "He'll have the surgery and in a few weeks, hopefully, he'll be back on the ice."
DiPietro is 3-2-3 this season with a 3.73 goals-against average and a save percentage of just .876. In 315 regular-season games, he is 130-133-8-31 with a 2.86 goals-against average, a .903 save percentage and 16 shutouts.
"This isn't something I ever thought would happen again," he said of the latest surgery. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to come back healthy, as fast as possible."