Rick DiPietro remembered his first training camp, when he introduced himself to John Vanbiesbrouck in Lake Placid and was "in awe of everything."

That was, remarkably, 11 years ago. DiPietro turned 30 Monday, and now he's one of the old veterans in a six-goalie mix this training camp.

"Older," he said. "I can't say old just yet."

But DiPietro, who has played a total of 39 games the last three seasons because of various knee and hip injuries and facial fractures, is trying to regain his No. 1 status in a wide-open camp with a lot of question marks in goal.

There's Evgeni Nabokov, trying to overcome a lost 2010-11, when he took the money and left the Sharks for the KHL, then balked at coming to the Islanders when they claimed him after he'd signed to go to the playoff-bound Wings. And Al Montoya, who played well after the Islanders acquired him from the Coyotes out of desperation, but now needs to prove he can maintain the focus and confidence to earn time.

There are also three prospects the Isles are invested in: Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson and Mikko Koskinen. That means that even competition for work in Bridgeport will be fierce.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"This is the way we like to have it, where everyone has to work hard for their spots," Jack Capuano said. "Competition is good for everyone."

The concern could be whether all the goalies believe they will get a shot to show what they can do. There are only five preseason games to do that; people around the team seem to believe the Islanders will carry three goalies into the regular season, but it's still a battle to stay fresh.

"It's been like this forever now," Nabokov said. "You have young guys pushing you from behind and the other competitors step up from behind. So you don't want to feel too comfortable. You want to feel them breathing on your back and that's what makes everybody better."

That hasn't always been the case with DiPietro, who has had confidence to spare, even through his most trying times the last three seasons. He seems aware that he has to prove himself a bit -- to stay healthy and play at the level he achieved earlier in his career.

"When I feel good, I think the results have been there," he said.

"This is as good as I've felt in a while. Instead of needing time to focus on rehab, I've had time to do things like yoga, other body-maintenance stuff. It should be interesting to see how things go. You can only control how hard you prepare, so that's what I'm focusing on."

Notes & quotes: D Steve Staios participated in the team's first training-camp practice Monday after agreeing to a tryout on Saturday. Staios, 38, spent the last decade of his 15-year career in Edmonton and Calgary. "I think the travel schedule here can help veterans," he said. "I had some other invites to camps, but this is the best fit. I really like this team." . . . D Andrew MacDonald (hip surgery) and C Marty Reasoner (knee) were held out of practice.