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DiPietro's health again in question

by Brian Hunter /
A few thoughts while we look forward to the Rangers-Islanders and five other games on Monday night's docket:

Tale of two goalies -- There's little doubt who will be minding the crease for the New York Rangers when they invade Nassau Coliseum on Monday night. Henrik Lundqvist, a Vezina Trophy finalist in each of his first three NHL seasons, is off to the kind of start that suggests another nomination may be in his future.

At the other end of the ice, it's a different story for the New York Islanders. They played their first four games with Joey MacDonald in net as franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro took his recovery from offseason knee surgery. Now, the possibility exists that DiPietro may be hurting again.

"He's day-to-day," Gordon said after pulling DiPietro following the first period of Saturday's 4-3 loss to Carolina. Asked the cause, the coach said, "We can't talk about injuries. That's what I'm stuck with. It wasn't his play."

DiPietro, who allowed a pair of goals on 12 shots, one coming off his own giveaway, wasn't interested in enlightening anyone on his condition after the game, either.

"I'd rather not talk about it. It's a bit of a distraction. When we figure out what's going on, you guys will know," DiPietro said. Asked again if the injury was the reason he was pulled, DiPietro repeated, "Yeah. I don't know what to tell you."

Regardless of who the Islanders start Monday, they'll have their hands full with Lundqvist. He leads the League with six wins, is fourth with a 1.99 goals-against average and is seventh with a .927 save percentage. He made 27 saves Saturday against Pittsburgh and was also flawless in the shootout as the Rangers claimed a 3-2 victory.

“That was classic Henrik right there,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “Poised and confident in the shootout.”

It's a Wild world -- They have played the fewest games of any team, but the Minnesota Wild will take the ice at Xcel Energy Center on Monday night leading the Northwest Division. And at 5-0-1, they will be looking to remain the Western Conference's last squad to have gained a point in every game (Buffalo, at 6-0-2, has accomplished the feat in the East).

Minnesota survived a late surge by Columbus and a goal disallowed because of a high stick on Saturday to hold off the Blue Jackets, 2-1. Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves and improved to 12-0-5 with a 1.74 GAA and .941 save percentage in his previous 17 decisions dating back to last season.

Backstrom has played all 365 minutes in goal for the Wild in their first six games, and Jacques Lemaire certainly made it sound like his No. 1 can expect to start against the Blackhawks.

"He's playing good right now," Lemaire said. "If he doesn't feel any fatigue, then he’s going to be in the net I guess."

Mikko Koivu leads the Wild with 10 points, and his nine assists rank him in the top 10 in the League. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Owen Nolan each scored his first goal of the season against the Jackets, with Koivu picking up an assist on Nolan's tally.

"It was nice for both (Nolan and Bouchard) to get one tonight," Koivu said. "If we keep playing the way we are, it's bound to go in. We've got to shoot the puck and help each other out, and go for the rebounds. We've just go to believe it's going to happen."

Human highlight reel -- If Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic has been watching the sports highlight shows this past week, chances are he's seen his face more than a couple times.

Lucic delivered the hit of the season Thursday when he checked Toronto defenseman Mike Van Ryn into the boards and the impact shattered a pane of glass. But the Bruins went on to lose that game, 4-2.

Safe to say Lucic had way more fun Saturday when he notched his first career hat trick, including the game-winner, and added an assist for a career-high four points in a 5-4 win against Atlanta.

"It's always nice when you can contribute with a few goals," said Lucic, who now has four goals and seven points. "It was good to have the comeback we had … and I'm happy I could contribute."

It wasn't just that Lucic scored three goals, it was when he scored them. The first came with the Thrashers up 2-1 and tied the score. The second gave the Bruins a 4-3 lead. And the final one came with 1:41 remaining after Atlanta had tied the game and looked to have forced overtime.

"He won us a hockey game tonight just with the way he played and the kind of identity we talk about: grinding it out, out-working, out-muscling," said Boston coach Claude Julien.

Save that puck -- They've only played eight games, but the Columbus Blue Jackets have already had four different players score their first NHL goal this season.

Jakub Voracek, their first-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, scored the Jackets' first goal on opening night in Dallas. In their home opener against Nashville, this year's first-round pick, Nikita Filatov, duplicated the feat. Voracek and Filatov were each playing his first NHL game.

The next night, it was defenseman Marc Methot's turn in a rematch against the Predators, and most recently Derek Dorsett got his name in the goal column, beating none other than Roberto Luongo in a Columbus win over Vancouver at Nationwide Arena.

"He's one of the best goaltenders in the league," Dorsett said with a grin. The feisty winger was known more for his physical play than his scoring ability last season when he played for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL and recorded 10 goals with 289 penalty minutes in 64 games. But like every young player to make the League, putting one in the back of the net was the realization of a special dream.

"It's great to get that first one," Dorsett said. "It's a big relief. Every kid that's played on that outdoor rink or downstairs in the basement as youngsters, you always pretend you're one of the players scoring your first NHL goal."       
Material from wire services and team online media was used in this report.

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