AMHERST, N.Y. (AP) - New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro is closer to making a return after practising Friday for the first time since suffering his second concussion three weeks ago.
Coach Ted Nolan said DiPietro looked sharp, but he'll wait until the morning skate Saturday before determining whether the goalie will play in Game 2 of the Islanders' first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at Buffalo. Except for feeling a little rusty, DiPietro said he felt fine after practice.
"I think tomorrow morning will be a good indicator and we'll go from there," he said.
Nolan expressed hope that DiPietro's potential return would provide a boost following a 4-1 series-opening loss to the Sabres on Thursday.
"Any time you get your most valuable player back, a guy who led you all season, it's a big lift for us for sure," Nolan said.
DiPietro went 32-19-9 with five shutouts this season, his first since signing a 15-year contract.
"It's tough to put into words how excited I am to be back and be a part of this. . . . If you're a competitor, you want to play and I realize how important these games are," DiPietro said.
DiPietro has been out since March 25, when he sustained his second concussion in a span of 12 days. He missed the final seven games of the regular season, but New York rallied to win its final four games behind third-stringer Wade Dubielewicz and clinch the East's eighth and final playoff berth.
Dubielewicz stopped 31 shots in making his NHL playoff debut Thursday. DiPietro travelled to Buffalo in time to watch the game after he was cleared by team doctors in Long Island earlier in the day.
The best-of-seven series shifts to Long Island for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.