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DiPietro excited for opportunity

by Brian Compton /
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders began the 2011-12 season with three healthy goaltenders. Now, they're down to one.

And it's the one nobody would have guessed.

Rick DiPietro, who has spent a large chunk of the past four years in the infirmary, will be the Isles' starting goaltender Saturday night when the Isles host the Boston Bruins at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The 30-year-old relieved Evgeni Nabokov early in Thursday night's 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens after the latter suffered a groin injury that could sideline him up to a month.

Then, on Friday, the Isles announced that Al Montoya -- who has been sharp in the six appearances he's made this season -- is day-to-day with a strained hamstring. New York was forced to promote Anders Nilsson from AHL Bridgeport on Saturday morning to back up DiPietro, who now has been presented with a golden opportunity to regain his spot as the Isles' No. 1 goaltender.

"It's a good opportunity to get in there and get an extended chance to play some games," said DiPietro, who is 2-1-2 with a 2.86 goals-against average and .900 save percentage in five appearances this season. "At the end of the day, it's all about winning and that's our main focus."

DiPietro, the No. 1 pick at the 2000 NHL Draft, made 26 appearances last season -- the most in three years due to various knee, hip and head injuries. Now healthy and eager to seize the moment, DiPietro -- who has 10 years left on his contract -- admits he will put added pressure on himself to reclaim his position as the Isles' franchise goaltender.

"I always end up putting a little added pressure on myself than I probably should," he said. "But really, the focus is winning. That's what I want to do and that's what this hockey club wants to do. We're in the middle of November here and it's time for us to turn this around and get things going in the right direction."

Montoya was rewarded for a strong training camp by starting the Isles' first three games of the season. With Nabokov also in the mix, DiPietro didn't receive his first start until Oct. 29. Suddenly, injuries to both Nabokov and Montoya have DiPietro back in the spotlight. Islanders coach Jack Capuano is hopeful DiPietro will make the most of this chance.

"It's a good opportunity for him," Capuano said. "If you know Rick at all like we know him, he's a competitive kid and he wants that challenge. There's no better place than against the Stanley Cup champions tonight, so it'll be a good test for him."

"I feel good," DiPietro said. "I had a good summer. I'm looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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