It's been nearly seven months since Rick DiPietro
stepped onto the ice and played in a competitive hockey game. Tonight, DiPietro is scheduled to be back between the pipes as the Islanders battle the Panthers in Florida at 7 pm in preseason action.
On Friday morning, DiPietro participated in his first on-ice workout with teammates this season. The exuberant DiPietro was his old self again, and more excited than ever to be back on the ice.
"It's been a long time," said DiPietro. "This is the longest I've gone without playing an organized hockey game. It was really exciting today. Sitting in the stall it was good to get the adrenaline going again. I went out there and felt like I was at the Coliseum in front of 17,000 fans. I was just that excited to be out there."
DiPietro last played on March 15th in an Islanders 3-0 loss in Montreal. After a second hip surgery, DiPietro has returned just in time for the start of the season.
"I'm happy about being back to 100-percent and going into the start of the season healthy," said DiPietro. "It's nice to know that all of the work that you put in over the summer actually pays off. This is the first time in my career I've been begging to have pucks shot at me. I feel really strong and my lungs feel good. I can't say enough about the doctors and training staff and how much they helped me throughout the summer. It's tough being on the injury reserve, coming to the rink early, but not getting on the ice and being in the locker room the same time as the guys, especially for me since I like to talk a lot."
Not only is DiPietro elated about being back, but so is Head Coach Scott Gordon, who was encouraged that DiPietro was patient with his return.
"There was a time frame we had to wait for," said Gordon. "Today was the day there wasn't any question about whether he could practice. Every team has to have a go-to guy to have success. You can't mask average goaltending. To have a guy who is at the top of his position enhances any team's chances of winning." Click here
to watch Scott Gordon's interview discussing tonight's matchup against the Devils.