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Lawson to Make His NHL Debut

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
On Saturday, the Islanders recalled goaltender Nathan Lawson on an emergency basis from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Lawson will make his National Hockey League debut Saturday night when the Islanders take on the Phoenix Coyotes at Nassau Coliseum.

When the coaches told him he was being sent to Long Island, he was 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.

Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano knows Lawson well as he coached the 27-year-old goaltender the last two seasons. As a result, Capuano said that he knew Lawson would eventually be recalled. Capuano feels that Saturday night’s matchup is the perfect opportunity.

Goaltender Nathan Lawson #52 of the New York Islanders looks to make a save against the Edmonton Oilers on September 16, 2009 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
“He’s a confident kid for sure,” Capuano said. “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.”

After starting the season on injured reserve, the 6’2” 203-pound goaltender has seen time in nine games with the Sound Tigers since his return on Oct. 16. He has recorded two wins, four losses and two shootout losses for a 3.78 goals against average and .890 save percentage.

Last season, the Calgary, Alberta native played in a career-high 36 AHL games with the Sound Tigers, posting a 2.52 goals against average and a .922 save percentage with a 16-16-3 record.

In his fourth professional season, Lawson has been waiting for his chance to play at the NHL level, but said that he wasn’t overly concerned with when that time would come.

“I tried not to think about it too much,” Lawson said. “I just wanted to, wherever I was playing, I just wanted to play my best and go out there and do what I can do, just let the pieces fall where they may.”
But he’s happy to be here now.

“It’s a big opportunity,” Lawson said. “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.”

While Lawson will play against the Coyotes on Saturday night, Capuano had not decided how long the goaltender would stay with the Islaners.

“He’s going to play tonight,” Capuano said. “We’ll take it period-by-period and we’ll talk about it after the game.”

Goaltenders Rick DiPietro #39 and Nathan Lawson #52 of the New York Islanders look on during a training camp session on September 21, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Some of that uncertainty may be due to the condition of Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, who skated in the Islanders morning skate on Saturday morning, but was not scheduled to start in the game due to minor swelling in his knee.

“(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.”

DiPietro said that if it was up to him, he’d be playing in the game because of his competitive spirit as an athlete, but reinforced his trust in the Islanders training staff to do the right thing when it comes to his health.

“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.”

Depsite DiPietro’s competitive attitude, he is still a big supporter of Lawson and is happy the Islanders coaching staff are giving him a chance to play.

“I’m excited and I’m nervous,” DiPietro said. “I feel like a proud dad getting to see his son come up and play. I’m excited for him (Lawson). I love the guy. I love what he brings to the rink every day. I think he’s a fantastic goalie and I’m looking forward to seeing him play well tonight.”
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