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Good news for DiPietro

The Islanders will learn today if Rick DiPietro can

play against the Rangers tomorrow night or if the whack to his right eye from

Sidney Crosby's stick will require more healing. In any case, the franchise

goalie has not suffered a long-term injury, according to a team spokesman.

An examination late Saturday night - after the uniquely stirring Al Arbour

ceremony at Nassau Coliseum - led Dr. Bruce Zagelbaum, the team

ophthalmologist, to determine that DiPietro did not suffer any serious damage

to the eye, team public relations executive Chris Botta said.

DiPietro will be re-examined today. He could not be reached yesterday to

speak about his vision, the cuts near his eye or the high stick from Penguins

superstar Crosby. Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek said after his team's 3-2

win that he inadvertently knocked Crosby's stick toward DiPietro's mask.

The Islanders were reassured by Zagelbaum's diagnosis, but they do

recognize that any eye injury is a red flag. Defenseman Bryan Berard -

"progressing" in his recovery from a groin injury, coach Ted Nolan said -

nearly lost his eye and his career when he was struck by a stick seven years

ago.

Also, any blow to the head is a cautionary event for DiPietro, whose

2006-07 season was disrupted by a concussion. The team has invested a lot of

its money, hope and identity in the goalie. When captain Bill Guerin held a

question-and-answer session during a Literacy Day appearance Tuesday, one

elementary school student asked, "Do you know Rick DiPietro?"

Against the Lightning Thursday, DiPietro had a shutout and an assist in the

same game for the first time in his career. He also got engaged that night,

although when he was asked the next day about the latter milestone, he said, "I

don't want to talk about that." Hockey questions only.

The team lists him as day-to-day. Backup goalie Wade Dubielewicz and his

teammates played well Saturday for Arbour, who coached his 1,500th Islanders

game. The 2007 Islanders responded the way his old teams often did, with a

rousing comeback from a two-goal deficit.

"I really didn't do that much, let's put it that way," Arbour said. "The

players and Ted Nolan did the whole thing, and the [assistant] coaches."

Nolan had a different take, though, saying, "Him being here won the game

for us." He called the chance to stand alongside Arbour "a thrill" and "a

great, great honor."

Arbour, 75 and coming off a serious post-surgery infection in recent years,

had been reluctant to make the one-game return. "Ted Nolan said he thought

about it and he wanted me to do it. I said, well, I'll do it for the alumni

because over the years, they've been overlooked," he said.

It crested with a rare postgame ceremony that brought an eclectic mix on

the ice: Arbour, Nolan and staff, current players, Arbour's family, owner

Charles Wang, Hall of Fame players and other alumni. Pat LaFontaine, one of

those included, later said you'd be hard-pressed to find a similar event

anywhere "in the history of sports."

Although Arbour dedicated his appearance to his former players, the current

ones perhaps got the most out of it. Guerin said, "It gives us a sense of

pride in ourselves and in the organization."

Miroslav Satan, who scored the tying and winning goals, said, "It hit me

after the game, when I saw the ceremony and all those former Islanders out

there. Having Al Arbour coming to talk to us at the morning skate and before

the game and during the game, calling the guys' lines, it was really special.

You don't get too many games like that, to play for a legend."

Here's something else you don't see every day. The Islanders, famous for

always having a "Rangers hangover" right after they play their rival, now have

to fight an emotional letdown before they face the Rangers.

Tomorrow

Rangers

at Islanders

7 p.m.

TV: Versus

Radio: WABC

(770), WBBR

(1130)

New York Sports