will face his first shot in live game action, he’s been testing himself and practicing with his New York Islanders teammates for the past couple of weeks. On Wednesday morning, DiPietro was finally cleared by team doctors to play a game.
“I feel good in practice and everything else, but you don't really know until you get the chance to see some game action,” DiPietro said.
His first call to duty may come as early as this weekend as the Islanders head out on the road for a back-to-back series with the first game against the Carolina Hurricanes and the following night with the Florida Panthers.
“Anytime you come back from an injury it's always a long strenuous process, but it's nice to be back around the guys and I'm looking forward to the road trip,” DiPietro said.
DiPietro had to sit out after suffering facial fractures from a punch he took from Brent Johnson of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 2; another contributing factor to his absence has been the recurring swelling in his knee.
Coming back when there are so few games left in the regular season (11) may seem odd to some, but for the athlete, the time couldn’t come soon enough.
“You come back when you're ready to come back,” DiPietro said. “It doesn't matter how many games are left in the season. It would make no sense to sit out. And if we don't make the playoffs, it's a long summer. So to continue to sit out and not get games in before the summer wouldn't make any sense.”
While DiPietro has been wishing he could be on the ice or on the bench cheering on his teammates these past five weeks, the goaltender has watched his teammates grow in an exponential matter.
“They look fantastic,” DiPietro said. “They play with a lot of heart, a lot of grit. Everything is starting to click. We've said all along, with a young team, it's a learning experience and it takes time.”
DiPietro continued, “Unfortunately it got to that streak where we lost quite a few games in a row. If you could turn back time, go back there and win just a handful of those games, it would be a different story. But they always say you have to learn how to lose before you can learn how to win and we've done plenty of losing. We're starting to win and guys are excited and playing for each other.”
Thus, whenever Capuano gives him the nod, DiPietro will be up for the challenge.
|Islanders Goaltender Rick DiPietro's mask he's been wearing to protect his face from further injury after sustaining facial fractures on Feb. 11, 2011. |