UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro sat out Tuesday night's game against the New Jersey Devils because of headaches that came on two days earlier.
DiPietro, who missed most of three games with a head injury earlier this month, complained again of headaches after the Islanders' overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday. The team wouldn't say whether DiPietro sustained a concussion when he was injured at Montreal on March 13, nor would it confirm if he has one now.
Rangers forward Sean Avery fell on DiPietro's head in a crease pileup Sunday, and the 25-year-old goalie also had a shot strike him in the mask. He didn't come out of the game, but was unable to practice Monday and didn't participate in the team's morning skate on Tuesday.
"After the game on Sunday, Rick told our medical staff that he was suffering from headaches," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said in a statement. "Until Rick is completely recovered, he will not play. As important as these games are, nothing is more important than Rick's health."
The team declined to give any more details on DiPietro's injury or whether he underwent baseline tests that would confirm a concussion. Initially, DiPietro was said to have had a stiff neck and overall body soreness.
The Islanders are being much more tightlipped about their franchise goalie's injury than they were in revealing Chris Simon's concussion as part of his statement following his stick-swinging attack against Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg that resulted in Simon's season-ending suspension.
Dr. Elliot Pellman, the Islanders' director of medical services, resigned last month as the longtime chairman of the NFL's committee on concussions. He is also the head physician for the New York Jets.
DiPietro, in the first season of a landmark 15-year contract with the Islanders, was originally hurt in the first period against the Canadiens two weeks ago. He left that game following a mid-ice collision with Montreal forward Steve Begin. DiPietro fell to the ice after being hit on the right side of his mask by Begin's right skate when he lunged forward to win a race to the puck just inside New York's blue line.
The Islanders led 1-0 at the time, but backup Mike Dunham allowed five goals on 32 shots in the 5-3 loss. Dunham also played the next two games, giving up 11 goals on 61 shots in losses to Ottawa and Florida. DiPietro returned for the final game of the four-game trip and stopped 36 of 40 shots in an overtime defeat to Tampa Bay.
DiPietro bounced back in the following two games, beating Pittsburgh 3-1 with a 35-save effort, and giving up three goals on 21 shots Saturday in a win at Philadelphia. He allowed two goals to the Rangers in 64 minutes on Sunday.
The news is potentially devastating to the Islanders' postseason hopes. New York entered Tuesday night tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining.
"We have to go out and focus on winning the hockey game, not what they have or don't have," Devils coach Claude Julien said.
The Islanders said that DiPietro will be evaluated on a daily basis and won't be available to comment on his condition until he is cleared to play. New York recalled goalie Wade Dubielewicz from Bridgeport of the AHL on Tuesday to serve as Dunham's backup against New Jersey.
DiPietro tied the Islanders team record with 32 victories this season, and has a 2.58 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in playing 62 of New York's first 75 games.
"Every game that we've played them has been a very close game. Obviously he was a big part of it," said Devils forward Patrik Elias, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games with a groin injury. "If you ask me who would I rather have in the net, DiPietro or Dunny, I would obviously say Dunny."
The Islanders were also missing defenseman Freddy Meyer, who is out indefinitely with a broken finger. New York recalled defenseman Allan Rourke from Bridgeport to fill in.