BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Islanders starting goalie Rick DiPietro has been cleared for practice and could be ready to play Game 2 of New York's Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against Buffalo.
DiPietro, out since March 25 when he sustained his second concussion, traveled to Buffalo in time to watch the Islanders' 4-1 loss to the Sabres on Thursday. Coach Ted Nolan said DiPietro will practice Friday, then the team will determine whether he can play Saturday.
"We're optimistic," DiPietro said following the game. "I get a chance to practice with the team for the first time in a while. I'm looking forward to get back."
The best-of-seven series shifts to Long Island for Game 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.
DiPietro missed the final seven games of the regular season.
Minor leaguer Wade Dubielewicz has filled in, helping the Islanders win their final four games of the regular season, including a 3-2 shootout win over New Jersey on Sunday to clinch the East's eighth and final playoff berth.
Dubielewicz kept the Isles close against the Sabres on Thursday, stopping 20 of the first 22 shots he faced, and 31 overall.
The Isles rely on DiPietro, though, who went 32-19-9 during the regular season, and had five shutouts. The 25-year-old goalie is in the first season of a 15-year deal with the Islanders.
"I wouldn't call anything about this recovery as fast," DiPietro said. "This is new territory for me, but it's something I wouldn't wish on anybody."
As strange as it was watching from the sideline, he was impressed by how the Isles battled to get into the playoffs.
"We're happy to be here, but there's a lot of work to be done," DiPietro said. "It's a weird feeling. You're a part of the team, but not part of the every-day grind. It'll be nice to be back."