Rick DiPietro might not be back in goal on Thursday, but the New York Islanders are feeling pretty good about their backup goalie.
Wade Dubielewicz could be in net again as the Islanders try to complete a home-and-home sweep of the New York Rangers at Nassau Coliseum.
|Wade Dubielewicz (left) has played well enough in Rick DiPietro's absence to earn another start versus the Rangers. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
DiPietro has missed the last two games following the death of his grandmother. He had been expected to return Tuesday against the Rangers (34-24-9), but general manager Garth Snow - a former goalie - convinced him to take another day off.
DiPietro practiced with the Islanders (32-29-7) on Wednesday, but coach Ted Nolan wouldn't say whether he or Dubielewicz, who made 27 saves in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout win, would start Thursday.
"We can't forget the fact that Dubielewicz has been playing great," Nolan said. "We're in a good situation. Whether Ricky goes in or Dubielewicz goes in, we feel quite confident."
Dubielewicz, who also stopped five of six shots in Tuesday's shootout, was coming off a 1-0 loss to Florida in which he made 29 saves. He went 4-0 with two shootout victories in April last season - including a shootout victory against the Rangers - as the Islanders rallied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference while DiPietro was injured.
"It just allows you to have a sense of confidence," Dubielewicz said. "The fact that we were able to make a little run with me in the net last year maybe gave them a sense of confidence, but last year is last year. If we were to do it again, that would be great."
While Nolan remained noncommittal on Wednesday, DiPietro and Dubielewicz each said they expected the other to start.
"Regardless of what's going on, I like to play as much as possible," said DiPietro, who is in the second season of a 15-year contract with the Islanders. "(Snow) kind of rationalized and thought it wasn't a good idea, but obviously I wanted to compete especially in a game of that magnitude.
"We're getting down to the nitty gritty and it isn't a time I want to be taking a rest."
The Islanders are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, but just three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. They won Tuesday for the second time in six games despite putting only 18 shots on net.
The Islanders had a season-high 53 shots versus Florida and recorded at least 34 shots in each of their previous four games. They scored only eight goals on 176 shots in those games.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are 7-0-3 over their last 10 games and tied with Boston for sixth in the conference. However, they fell to 1-3-1 against the Islanders this season.
DiPietro was in net for the first four of those games, but the Rangers know they have a challenge no matter who they face.
"For whatever reason, Dubielewicz plays really well against us," Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said. "I don't know if he gets in the head of the players or what."