The sounds of progress for the Islanders include the one-syllable epithet Rick DiPietro let loose when a puck finally got by him Tuesday. Before Jeff Tambellini put one in on the top shelf, the goalie had stopped everything in the first high-speed shooting drill of his knee rehab. DiPietro still is far from thinking about playing in a game, but he was feeling good enough to think about perfection.
"It's your job as a professional athlete, when you're coming off an injury, to do as much as possible without setting yourself back, giving yourself the best opportunity to come back better than when you went down," he said after practice at IceWorks. "I personally am not going to be satisfied if, when I come back, I'm not playing at the level I'm accustomed to be playing at."
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He took a step Tuesday, on the ice with a half-dozen skaters, mostly players coming back from injuries or just needing extra ice time. Before that, he had taken shots mostly in a controlled environment. This time, the players were trying to score and they were skating hard.
They did breakaways, they stood in various spots and took turns shooting at him, they did curls around orange cones and fired shots. DiPietro stopped most of them and expected to stop all of them.
"Vocal," coach Scott Gordon said, with a grin, in describing the franchise goalie's most strenuous workout to date. Then he added, "It's not going to happen overnight for him, but given the fact he's slowly working his way into it, his concentration was good."
DiPietro said, "I'm sticking with the protocol, increasing the workload when they let me and we'll see how it responds."
There is no timetable, but he is nonetheless watching the clock. He was on the ice from 11 to 11:47 a.m.
"It's the longest one I've had,'' he said. "I think that's the big test. You increase the workload and especially the time and see how my leg responds."
Notes & quotes: Joel Rechlicz was returned to Bridgeport . . . Frans Nielsen, rehabbing from arthroscopic knee surgery, looked good. He might play next week, Gordon said.