After missing the past three games with a knee injury, Rick DiPietro
skated in practice today and is set to play on Thursday at the Nassau Coliseum against the Florida Panthers. Mike Sillinger, who missed Monday's contest in Raleigh, will also be back in the lineup.
DiPietro returns to playing action with a record of 16-13-2, along with a 2.47 goals against average and .910 save percentage.
"Now we have a chance to get two of our big guys back," said Ted. "We had the luxury of Wade Dubielewicz playing in goal so well and not rushing back Ricky. Sometimes the emotions get the better of you and you want to play your number one, but decided to err on the side of caution. Ricky will probably go a lot from here on in."
Wade Dubielewicz relieved DiPietro and picked up the win in the Islanders' 4-3 overtime victory against Toronto on December 26. He then started the next three games, finishing his four-game stretch 3-1-0 with a 2.40 goals against average and .924 save percentage.
"The last couple of games Dubie's rebound control has been very good," explained Ted. "He did a great job for us. Every time you lose your number one goalie, you need a big effort from your number two and Dubielewicz did that for us."
Sillinger also makes his return to the lineup after missing Monday's 4-1 win over Carolina. As one of the league's top faceoff men, Sillinger has recorded seven goals and nine assists in 37 games this season.
"We were able to give Sillinger five days of rest, so now we should see him back to his usual play that we're so accustomed to," said Nolan. "You have to give him a lot of credit for the way he's played and what he's played through."
With Sillinger out of the lineup, Andy Hilbert took over as center on the shutdown with Ruslan Fedotenko and Trent Hunter, winning 53% of his draws.
"Andy Hilbert filled in well on that line, just learning how to play center." said Ted.
Radek Martinek will not be in the lineup on Thursday against Florida, but Nolan said that he would join the team during their upcoming road swing and would likely suit-up some time during the trip.Winter Classic Reax:
Bruno Gervais and Ted gave their thoughts on the Winter Classic held on January 1 between Pittsburgh and Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium – home of the Buffalo Bills.
"I watched it start to finish," said Nolan. "The older we are, the more we remember playing outdoors. That's where we all grew up playing. Seeing Letang and Crosby score those goals in the shootout with snow on their stick, I'm sure they were quite used to it. I think it would be a great thing to be a part of, especially with the two New York teams. You're talking about an NHL game being on the biggest stage. There wouldn't be a better place than doing an outdoor game here."
"It was a lot of fun to watch," said Gervais. "It really brought back memories of playing outside. I think the last time I played outside was when I was 15 or 16. It would be really exciting to play in an NHL game outdoors."