SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - Injured Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro made significant progress in his recovery when he took shots during training camp Monday.
DiPietro, who began skating lightly last month to rehab his injured knee and recently began skating in pads, has taken the next step in his return by facing shots during practice, an encouraging development for those within the organization.
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"Now that he's taking shots and feeling good, that's a positive sign," Islanders general manager Garth Snow said.
Because of logistical constraints, DiPietro has been working out separately from the rest of the team during training camp, practicing with goaltending coaches Mike Dunham and Sudarshan Maharaj for 20-30 minutes in full gear each day at an auxiliary rink in Saskatoon.
"We're optimistic," Snow said. "He's feeling great. We're sticking to his rehab protocol and all signs are good."
Although this is a positive sign for DiPietro's recovery, the Islanders likely will be treating this development with caution, given how his injury situation unfolded last year.
DiPietro played only five games last year before being sidelined by injury. As a result, the Islanders were forced to rely on backup goaltenders Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis for nearly the entire season.
The Islanders have taken steps to ensure they are not saddled with the same problem this year, however. Snow signed two high-caliber starting goaltenders this offseason, Dwayne Roloson on the first day of free agency, then Martin Biron three weeks later. With two reliable goaltenders to begin the season, DiPietro can take his time rehabbing.
"I'm going to come back and play when I'm 100 percent healthy," DiPietro told Newsday last month. "I'm not going to make another mistake and rush myself back."
During the past three weeks, DiPietro has been following a strict rehab schedule in which he has gradually increased his workload as the program dictates. Yesterday's activity does not necessarily mean he's close to game-readiness, but it is certainly substantial progress.
Notes & quotes: The Islanders kicked off their preseason schedule last night when they traveled to play the Vancouver Canucks in Terrace, British Columbia . . . The Islanders play their rookie game tonight against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in Prince Albert . . . John Tavares drew a loud response from his teammates during the morning session when he made a nice move to blow past fellow first-round pick and former OHL teammate D Calvin de Haan to score on Biron during drills.