Friday, January 8, 2010

Remember him? DiPietro finally returns

Almost one full year.

That's how long it's been since Rick DiPietro has been on the ice in an NHL game for the Islanders, 364 days since a 5-4 loss in Phoenix. Now, rising from the ashes, DiPietro will be trying to win the Isles some games, while proving to the many doubters that his pro career is far from over.

Hard to believe it's been that long, but as a Mets fan, I've become accustomed to seeing my team's top players out of action for longer than anyone expected (hello, Jose Reyes).

A lot's happened in the 12 months that DP's been out. Barack Obama took over as president. Banks were bailed out. Man walked on the moon (wait, it hasn't been THAT long).

The Islanders carried on without their franchise player, and while the record was disastrous without NHL-caliber netminders, it did help them land John Tavares with the No. 1 pick. So maybe DP (or at least his knee) deserves some thanks.

Credit Garth Snow for landing Dwayne Roloson, who has been outstanding, and Martin Biron, to help man the nets until DiPietro was ready to return. Roloson's performance in particular made it easier to let DP take his sweet time in rehab.

And wouldn't you know it, the Isles have done pretty well without No. 39. Matt Moulson has been a revelation with 16 goals, Tavares has shown he's the real deal, also with 16 scores, and Kyle Okposo has been terrific as well. The Isles are just three points out of a playoff spot.

Goaltending, however, hasn't been the issue at all, thanks to Roloson, and DP isn't going to score much, no matter how far away from his net he roams. But while DiPietro's return won't help the Isles light the lamp, it could provide a huge boost defensive and, possibly, emotionally, if he can return to his previous form.

That's a huge 'if.' Let's take it one game at a time. It will be great to see DiPietro finally back in goal, shaking off the rust.

It's a new year for everyone.

---

I love John Buccigross and his blogumns on ESPN.com, but I have to take issue with his latest edition, where in his mid-season look at all 30 teams he says of the Islanders, "Start losing and get down to the bottom three of the league to draft another star."

I hate that thinking. Sure, getting Tavares was huge, but you never tempt the hockey gods with talk of tanking to get a better draft pick. That's a sure sign of the return of Scott Scissons.

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