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Islanders send down DiPietro to work on game

by Chris Ryndak

BUFFALO -- The New York Islanders were one goaltender short when they took the ice for their morning skate at First Niagara Center on Saturday.

The team waived Rick DiPietro on Friday and had to wait until he cleared waivers at noon Saturday before they could call up Kevin Poulin of the American Hockey League's Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Evgeni Nabokov was the lone goaltender at practice.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said the move was made so DiPietro could get more ice time and work on his game. In three NHL games this season, DiPietro is 0-3-0 with a 4.10 goals-against average and an .855 save percentage.

"Rick hasn't played in a while. It's not a demotion by any means," Capuano said. "From an organizational standpoint and for Rick, just to go down and get some games because he hasn't had many games."

DiPietro, 31, has been plagued by injuries in recent years and has suited up for 50 games since the end of the 2007-08 season. He has eight years left on a 15-year contract. DiPietro last played in Bridgeport on a conditioning assignment in 2009 while recovering from knee surgery.

"[We need] to get him back to the caliber of goalie that he was. He was an NHL All-Star [in 2007-08]," Capuano said. "He needs some game-type situations, so I think it's a great situation for Rick to go down there and work on his game."

With the Islanders last season, Poulin went 2-4-0 in six games. The 22-year-old is 15-14-3 with a 3.22 GAA and a .904 save percentage this season with Bridgeport.

"Kevin played well for us last year. We've got a lot of hockey games and [a heavy] back-to-back schedule as well," Capuano said. "A guy that's played some hockey can step right in and give us a chance to win."

Nabokov is expected to start Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. Outside of the backup goaltender, the Islanders will make no lineup changes.

Buffalo held an optional morning skate.

Forward Ville Leino skated with the Sabres for the first time since injuring his hip in training camp. He has been doing work on his own, but had not participated in a skate or practice with the team until Saturday.

Leino said it's the best he's felt so far and considers himself day-to-day, although he and the trainers can't tell if the treatment is working until he starts skating.

"I felt surprisingly good today," Leino said. "It was definitely positive. We'll try and build on that."

Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston said there would be two lineup changes for the Sabres, one on offense and one on defense.

He said rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko would play Saturday after being a healthy scratch the prior three games.

Defenseman Andrej Sekera also could return. He's missed three games with a charley horse.


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