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Atlantic: Isles, Flyers try to make three go into two

by Phil Coffey
Three into two doesn't work as the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers are discovering.

On Long Island, Rick DiPietro has finally gotten back on the ice following knee surgery, a great relief for the club that made a long-term investment in the goalie, but his return gives the team three NHL-caliber goalies with Dwayne Roloson and Marty Biron.

In Philadelphia, Ray Emery also is back on the ice following abdominal surgery, giving the Flyers three goalies for two sports -- Emery, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton, who came to Philly off waivers and has done a tremendous job.

Let's start on Long Island, where DiPietro has reinserted himself back into the equation. He took the loss in his debut against Dallas, but the good news for the Isles was DiPietro declared himself fit to play.

"It was great to be back," DiPietro told Newsday. "Physically I feel good and I'm looking forward to my next chance to play."

Roloson is 17-7-6 this season with a 2.79 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. Biron is 2-11-1 with a 3.22 GAA and .900 save percentage.

So, if you're Islanders GM Garth Snow, what do you do?

Biron is the obvious choice to trade, something that was discussed back when the Islanders signed him over the summer. He is a proven player, one who also is very popular with teammates no matter the city. So, it would appear to be the easy decision, trade Biron for a draft pick and then go with Roloson and DiPietro.

But hold on a minute! If you're Snow, you also need to be cautious. DiPietro hasn't played enough games to really cement the idea he is going to be able to take the wear-and-tear right away. With the Islanders very much in the hunt for a playoff spot, a conservative approach, namely keeping all three goalies despite the logistical problems of having three goalies, may be the way to go.

In Philadelphia, the Flyers appear to have righted the ship after a sluggish start, so the decision on who is going to be the main man in goal is critical, as problems in net are widely perceived to have scuttled so many previous Flyers teams.

At first glace, you opt for Emery as soon as he proved to be 100 percent. Abdominal surgery in December cost emery 17 games. He is 11-8-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage.

Boucher is 4-11-1 with a 2.84 GAA and .896 save percentage. Those numbers, when compared to the startling stats posted by Leighton -- 7-0-1, 2.13 GAA, .928 save percentage -- would seem to make Boucher the odd man out, whether he is destined for a move elsewhere or becoming a bystander.

But it may not be that easy. Emery can be temperamental and may not respond to riding the pine while Leighton carries his hot hand. And prior to his hot streak, Leighton has been far from distinguished at the NHL level.

So like Snow on Long Island, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks.

Betts-ing man -- Peter Laviolette is still learning about his players with the Philadelphia Flyers, but one he already has made up his mind about is Blair Betts, the checking center who signed on as a free agent this season. Against Tampa Bay Saturday, Betts scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season.

"He's really valuable because he does a lot of things really well," Laviolette said. "He's a faceoff guy. He can play all positions. He can skate, he can hit and he can kill penalties. He can jump up and play on other lines. He can play in the last minute of a game.

"When you've got a player that you can ramble on like that, he's a valuable part of your team."

Goofy goal for Pens -- Hang around long enough and you'll see everything. Those who watched the Penguins' 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs Saturday will attest to that.

When Sergei Gonchar scored a power-play goal to give the Pens a 2-1 lead late in the second period, it started a weird scoring sequence.

Let's turn the descriptive duties to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, after all, he's in the Hall of Fame. Take it away, Dave

"Gonchar beat Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson at 14:44 to break a 1-1 tie, but neither the on-ice officials nor the goal judge saw the puck enter the net.

Consequently, play continued and, not many seconds later, Maple Leafs penalty-killer Alexei Ponikarovsky broke in on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, prompting Gonchar to hook him from behind.

The referees determined that a penalty shot was in order but, after a video review determined that Gonchar actually had scored, that infraction was changed to a minor penalty.

The key to the ruling can be found in Rule 78.6 which reads, in part, that "Only one goal can be awarded at any stoppage in play."

Had Ponikarovsky scored when Gonchar hooked him, his goal would have been waved off after it was determined that Gonchar's goal should have counted.

Penalties assessed after a goal is validated by video review, however, must be served to deter teams from taking liberties against the opposition when they know they will be awarded a goal at the next stoppage.

Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato had witnessed a similar sequence at some point because coach Dan Bylsma said he briefed the bench on how things would play out, but most players said they never had witnessed anything like it. "It's the first time it's happened in my life," Gonchar said. "I was talking to the guys, and they said the same thing. I never seen it before, and I don't know if I'll see it again."

Just to be clear, he wasn't talking about the Penguins scoring a power-play goal, even though his was just their second in the past seven games.

Bill Guerin, who played in his 1,231st game vs. the Leafs, said he never saw anything like it and that referee Don van Massenhoven, who worked his 1,000th, told him that he hadn't, either.

"It's pretty unbelievable," Guerin said. "That was crazy."

Git 'er done -- There is no rest for the weary in the NHL, so Friday's postponement of the Devils-Lightning game in Newark created a myriad of problems that the teams and League moved to remedy ASAP. That came Sunday evening when the game was completed with the Lightning winning, 4-2.

What made it all work was a sense of cooperation among the teams and NHL that resulted in a solution -- something politicians all over the world should learn from.

"Things happen and obviously the Devils feel terrible about it," Lightning GM Brian Lawton said Friday. "It's out of their control. It's tough on the fans, tough on players and coaches. But we'll move forward. I think it's only logical that the game be picked back up from where it was with the score and, in order to maintain the integrity of the game, the sooner the better to be honest with you.

"With trades, injuries and things like that -- the one thing about the NHL is they have the intent of the highest integrity and this is a force de-jour event, so to speak. But the NHL has always done a good job of maintaining (integrity)."'s Mike Morreale was at Prudential Center and reported the blackout occurred after Steven Stamkos scored to give Tampa Bay a commanding three-goal cushion with 9:56 remaining in the second period. A bank of lights went dark at approximately 8:15 p.m. ET.

"What happened was a circuit breaker went down -- I don't know which one it was," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said. "PSE&G (utilities company) has been here and they determined that they would not get this fixed (Friday night). The officials, as you saw, went out to determine if there was enough light to play. They determined it was too risky in one end zone. Safety has to come first in a situation like this."

Devils and Lightning players agreed to resume Friday's game even though the NHL has a bylaw prohibiting playing in three-straight games.

"I guess if we would've really wanted to push the three in three rule ..." Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner told Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger. "This might be the best of a tough situation. I see why they did it. Looking at the schedule going forward, there are not a lot of days left."

Lamoriello said both teams were involved and agreed to waive the rule and use the same lineups that appeared Friday. "That is correct, but there have to be some waivers if there are injuries," Lamoriello pointed out. "Level heads must prevail."

Well Said -- "It was weird, there's no doubt, but, like I said, I'm not an electrician so I couldn't fix it." -- Devils coach Jacques Lemaire

Around the Atlantic -- Martin Brodeur's win in Montreal Saturday was his 552nd non-shootout win for Brodeur, moving him one ahead of Patrick Roy for most in NHL history for those who complained Brodeur's totals had been inflated by shootout wins. … The Montreal Canadiens learned a hard lesson Saturday night, namely that New Jersey's Zach Parise is no shrinking violet. After absorbing a couple facial cuts on a check from Hal Gill, Parise responded with the overtime goal that gave the Devils a 2-1 win. "I was a little shaken up for a couple of minutes," Parise said. "I didn't get any (stitches). Just a bunch of little cuts." … Vinny Prospal is back skating and could be back in the Rangers' lineup soon. He had arthroscopic knee surgery to fix a torn meniscus on Dec. 28.  … Injured Penguins Sergei Gonchar and Fedotenko returned to the lineup Saturday. Gonchar had been hobbled since blocking a shot against the Devils on Dec. 30. Fedotenko had been hurt against Atlanta on Tuesday when he crashed into the Thrashers' net.

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