Rick DiPietro was back on the ice Wednesday night, trying to prove his worth to the Carolina Hurricanes. Playing for the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes' American Hockey League affiliate, DiPietro stopped 25 of 29 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Before signing a professional tryout agreement four days ago, DiPietro, 32, had been an unrestricted free agent since July, when the New York Islanders opted to buy out the remaining eight years of the 15-year, $67.5 million contract he signed in the fall of 2006. DiPietro, who appeared in 47 games from 2008-12 due to various knee and hip injuries, will be paid $1.5 million annually by the Islanders until 2029.
DiPietro began last season with the Islanders but struggled mightily. In three games, he had a 4.09 goals-against average and a save percentage of .855. New York then sent him to Bridgeport of the AHL, where he went 9-9-0 with a 2.93 GAA and .893 save percentage in 18 games.
DiPietro, the first player taken in the 2000 NHL Draft, has a 130-136-8 record with a 2.87 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in his NHL career, all with the Islanders.
Carolina's goaltenders have been ravaged by injuries this season, which opened the door for DiPietro. Cam Ward, the Hurricanes' No. 1 goalie, is out three to four weeks with a lower-body injury, and backup Anton Khudobin has been out with a lower-body injury since Oct. 13. Justin Peters and Mike Murphy, who began the season with Charlotte, were promoted to Carolina, creating an opportunity for DiPietro.
DiPietro hadn't appeared in a game since April 19, when he stopped 16 of 18 shots for Bridgeport in a 3-1 loss to Portland.