The New York Islanders recalled goaltender Nathan Lawson from their AHL farm team in Bridgeport on an emergency basis on Saturday. The 27-year-old will make his NHL debut Saturday night when the Islanders host Phoenix.
Lawson is getting his opportunity because starter Rick DiPietro has a swollen knee. DiPietro took part in the morning skate, but the Islanders opted to take no chances with a player who missed most of the last two seasons with knee and hip problems.
"It's one of those things where it's day-to-day," DiPietro said. "It's been awesome so far, but there's always good days and bad days when you come back from an injury like this. It's been a tough two years and it's just a point where I'm trying to be as smart as possible. You keep telling yourself that there's a lot of season left."
Lawson, who was 2-4-2 with a 3.78 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in nine games with the Sound Tigers, was understandably thrilled.
"Obviously I was just excited right away and went back to the hotel, packed some stuff and picked up my gear, then drove here last night," Lawson said.
"It's a big opportunity. I've been waiting my whole life for this, so I just need to have fun, take everything in as it is and just go out there, have fun and play my game."
Islanders interim coach Jack Capuano knows Lawson well -- he coached him at Bridgeport for the past two seasons.
"He's a confident kid for sure," Capuano said after the morning skate. "He plays the puck when he has to play the puck. His angles were good. His rebound control was good. Nathan (Lawson) is a guy that came out of Utah and the East Coast Hockey League. He was rookie of the year in the American Hockey League. He was a tremendous goalie for us. He's a competitor. He works at his game, and he'll compete at a high level."
Capuano said he had not decided how long Lawson will stay with the Islanders. The NHL roster freeze begins at midnight on Dec. 19.
"He's going to play tonight," Capuano said. "We'll take it period-by-period and we'll talk about it after the game."
Lawson's stay with the Islanders is likely to be linked to DiPietro's health.
"(DiPietro) feels good," Capuano said. "(Since he was on the ice for morning skate), that's a positive sign for us, that it's not too serious. The fact is we are going to give him a few days to relax and heal before he gets in the next game."