RICK DiPIETRO COULD BE BACK REAL SOONCiti Field talk, Hamonic, JT at Modell's tonight

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2:00 pm - Rick DiPietro is the story today. After playing complete games Friday and Sunday, the all-rehabbed-out goaltender practiced with the Islanders for close to two hours today. Even when the formal workout ended, he stayed on the ice and stopped pucks until the last teammate left the ice. There’s no way for DiPietro or anyone else to by anything but encouraged by the latest in the year-long turn of events.

 

Scott Gordon was surprised, albeit pleasently, by DiPietro’s presence on the ice at Iceworks this morning. “I did not expect him here today,” said the Islanders head coach. “I’m sure if he had any doubts, he wouldn’t be out there.” Gordon would not commit to anything else – whether DiPietro will be on this week’s Western swing, if he’ll start a game, nothing.

 

DiPietro tried his best not to show any glee, but it was apparent this is the most optimistic he’s been during his attempted comeback after a year away from the NHL. “It feels good to feel like myself again,” was the money quote. He also let down his guard a bit, talking about the day he was told he needed to be shut down for knee surgery and wondering when he would ever play again. I’ve known the kid long enough to tell you that DiPietro would not have said that if he didn’t think his next game was soon.

 

Then it was back to the usual routine: he feels “good.” He’s “pretty happy.” He’s “playing it by ear.” He “hopes to prove he’s ready to contribute.” “I still hold my breath.” And then, “I don’t know what the plan is, to be honest.”

 

I believe him on that last one. Expect Mr. Snow or Mr. Gordon to at least acknowledge by tomorrow that DiPietro will fly with the team to Colorado on Tuesday. In reality, the goalie doesn’t have anywhere else to go. (UPDATE: DiPietro is confirmed to be on trip).

 

The next part is the trickiest. After playing games Friday and Sunday and practicing all out today, can the Islanders really let DiPietro go more than a full week before he plays another game? How about this for a rotation – Dwayne Roloson on Wednesday in Colorado, DiPietro on Friday in Dallas, Martin Biron Saturday in Phoenix – the site of Rick’s last NHL game a year ago?

 

Really now…why the heck not? DiPietro has done his time in the minors, and the Islanders have to find out what they have sooner or later.

 

Finally, DiPietro was asked what it would mean to him to join his buddies and teammates on the road trip. “I might get homesick,” DiPietro kidded. “I don’t think I’ve been away from my home for more than a day.”

 

Notes: Sean Bergenheim and Nate Thompson practiced with the team today and will make the road trip. Gordon said he doubted they would both play all three games, but “I will try to work them in.” A banged-up Brendan Witt got the day off.

 

*

 

Noon, Iceworks: The halftime report…

 

The DiPietro Suffle: Rick DiPietro practiced with the Islanders today, a sign of good health after playing full games with the Sound Tigers on Friday and Sunday. According to Islanders PR maven Seth Sylvan, he has been officially recalled from his conditioning stint in the American Hockey League. Your Islanders now have three goaltenders.

 

Two-A-Days: With little practice time lately and the gritty-gutties not exactly firing on all cylinders, Scott Gordon is treating today like training camp. A 65-minute practice is being followed by another workout after Iceworks man Terry Zambonies the ice. While he does, most of the players are skating on the adjacent small rink.

 

Citi of Hope: Charles Wang told Katie Strang of Newsday today over the phone that he’d love to see his Islanders play the Rangers at Citi Field in Queens. I would hope so, since Islanders staffers first worked on an outdoor game before there was even a Heritage Classic in Edmonton.

 

Unless there is going to be a doubleheader, I don’t see the Islanders getting a game in Citi Field – at least on New Year’s Day 2011. If the Winter Classic comes to New York as a single game next year, you’re probably looking at the Rangers vs. the Washington Ovies.

 

More importantly, I look forward to Charles’ responses about the Lighthouse Project and the future of his team on Long Island.

 

One Cure for the Hamonic Blues: Very sad for Travis Hamonic that he’s going to miss Canada’s gold medal game on Tuesday against the United States. On the bright side for the 19-year-old defenseman, he already proved himself to the few who didn’t know how much he’s developed since the Islanders selected him in the second round in the 2008 draft.

 

Although Pierre McGuire was wise yesterday to point out how the Moose Jaw Warriors will not make the playoffs and Hamonic would be available to the Islanders, he could be traded to a Western Hockey League contender. Here’s one way the Islanders can cheer up Hamonic: finalize his NHL Entry Level three-year contract.

 

Open Practice!?: Practice at Iceworks today was opened to the public, which was kinda sorta wacky since 95% of Americans returned to work and school today.

 

Today’s Equation: Writing down Gordon’s lines for a Monday practice when the name game is on Wednesday = waste of time.

 

Tavares at Modell’s Tonight: The 2009 first overall pick will be signing one autograph per person at the Modell’s on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow tonight from 6-7:30 pm. I’d get there early to guard against a letdown. Only the first 150 fans are guaranteed a signature. Don’t tell my kids about this event.

 

More to come in the next hour or so. Comments.