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Healthy Weight eager to get Isles' season started

by Brian Compton
Things haven't gone quite as smoothly as Doug Weight expected they would when he first joined the New York Islanders in the summer of 2008.

Sure, he was given the honor of being named the team's captain after Bill Guerin was traded to Pittsburgh in 2009, but injuries have limited the 39-year-old to just 89 games during the last two seasons.

Year 2 was worse than Year 1 for Weight, who tore the rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder in November and then attempted to play through it before undergoing season-ending surgery in March. He had just 1 goal and 16 assists in 36 games.

"My first 16 years (in the League) were relatively healthy," Weight told after signing a one-year deal with the Isles on Tuesday. "It's been pretty disappointing with all the injuries I've had. The shoulder's been kind of nagging me since I became an Islander. When I got hurt in November, that's kind of the reason I rehabbed it. I tore my labrum completely. But I didn't know if I was going to have another chance to play.

"In hindsight, I played horribly. I really couldn't perform. I had a lot of things on my mind that I never thought of on the ice before -- what position I was to not get hit. I kind of thrive on contact to make plays. I'm not the biggest or the fastest, so it was tough. Looking back, I wish I had done the surgery in November. But thankfully they wanted me back. I got (the surgery) done in March and I'm feeling really, really good right now. I'm working the shoulder hard and I've got myself in great shape. I'm really excited."

Weight will be on the ice when the Islanders open training camp on Long Island in two weeks. He admitted there will be mental hurdles to leap as he tests the strength of his shoulder in contract drills. However, it will be nothing new to the Detroit native, who claims to be pain-free.

"I think there's always something at the beginning," Weight said. "I've had enough surgeries that I know there's scar tissue and I know there's things that are going to tweak it and there's going to be some soreness the day after. But for what I've gone through the last two years, it's just refreshing to be able to sleep and to wake up and have strength back in that shoulder. I feel like last year will give me a good head start and going into this with a lot of confidence. But like I said, I've done it before. I've played hurt and I've come back from surgeries before. There's always a period of adjustment. We'll see what happens."

Weight won't be the lone Islander going through an adjustment period. After watching his team surrender numerous multiple-goal leads last season, Isles GM Garth Snow signed defensemen Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina as free agents and acquired James Wisniewski from the Anaheim Ducks. Those moves alone have Weight excited.

"You know, it's been a tough sell," Weight said. "I know Garth was after a couple of guys that didn't end up here, but I was really excited first and foremost about Mark and James coming in on the back end. I think they're really, really going to help. They're going to help Mark Streit out a lot. We've got Radek (Martinek) coming back. We didn't have him the whole season. You know, it's amazing how two or three guys change the complexion of your lineup. I think we're a defensively strong team now, which maybe hasn't been the case."

"You also can't forget that these kids are a year older and a year stronger. Unfortunately the last two years we've missed the playoffs, but I think their bodies are going to mature and they're going to put their time in the gym. Hopefully that's a noticeable difference from last year and we'll really be taking some big strides."

The strides the Islanders make in 2010-11 could depend upon the status of Rick DiPietro. The first pick in the 2000 Entry Draft has appeared in just 13 games during the last two seasons due to various knee and hip injuries, but DiPietro is reportedly skating and ready for the start of training camp. DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson make up the Isles' goaltending tandem.

"We've texted a couple of times," Weight said. "Trying to talk to Ricky, it might be easier to get a hold of (President) Obama. But he's feeling good. He feels strong. It's all pointing in the right direction. Ultimately, he's going to have to get out there and see how it goes. He's got to get on the ice every day and see how this thing responds. Along with the five guys we've got coming in, that could be like trading for a star. Ricky's just coming into his own in his career. He's had a hard road. Hopefully he can just stay healthy. Maybe he won't play 60 or 65 games, but if he can be a part of our team and get anywhere over 30 starts, I think that would be a real blessing to this organization and to Ricky's career. Him and Dwayne (Roloson) can feed off each other.

"You've got the new defense core, you've got the kids who are a year older, we've got some grit throughout our lineup … I really like the moves. They're subtle, but along with a growing team, they can make a big difference."

But as Weight points out, until the Islanders put forth 60-minute efforts on a consistent basis, prognosticators will continue to have them pegged to finish at or near the bottom of the standings. Several media outlets are predicting the Isles will miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

"Do we deserve to be up higher? We're going to come in and I'm sure we'll discuss it, but you try to motivate yourself and you try to prove those people wrong," Weight said. "But until we do something … until we stay healthy as a team and until we play more consistent and learn it's a 60-minute game, we don't really deserve the respect from the fans or the media. We have to earn that, and that's a fun thing.

"We have a lot of good guys that care about each other within those four walls. It's something we've got to go out and earn. Maybe we can be a bit of a sleeper early and get some teams coming in a little flat and take advantage of that and get some confidence. But I think we're going to be a heck of a team. I'm as excited right now as I would be if I were on a team predicted to be first. Let's go to work and have some fun."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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