SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - Rick DiPietro, who made a substantial leap in his rehab when he began facing shots earlier this week, has been encouraged by his progress during Islanders training camp.
However, given the false starts DiPietro experienced last season, when he played only five games before spending the rest of the season on injured reserve, DiPietro wants to temper his optimism with caution.
"I felt good," DiPietro said after a 30-minute workout Tuesday with Islanders goaltending consultant Sudarshan Maharaj. "It felt like I was seeing the puck well out there. I don't want to get too excited, though. It's all about how I feel [Wednesday]. It's important when you put stress on that injury to see how it responds."
DiPietro, who began skating last month to test his injured knee, faced shots from varying angles Tuesday - from the top of both circles, the high slot, and just inside the blue line. Despite his long absence from game action, DiPietro said he was pleased with his timing.
"Surprisingly pretty good," DiPietro said. "I'm seeing the puck pretty well. I'm going to continue to do the things we are working on now and then eventually get into some live practices."
While this week has been comprised of drills in a controlled environment to give DiPietro practice tracking the puck and honing his timing and reflexes, the next logical step in his recovery process will be to transition into activities that reflect game situations.
After DiPietro takes that next step, he'll eventually try to work his way into live practices, a milestone for which he has no time table. Given his tough luck with injuries and the long road to recovery, DiPietro just wants to focus on his health and the immediate task at hand.
"It's been a lot of hard work, a lot of ups and downs, some bad days and some good days, but I feel confident that it's going good, so I just have to see how it responds," DiPietro said. "I'll just continue working hard and look forward to seeing it pay off."
The fact DiPietro has not played in a game since Jan. 2, the payoff has been a long time coming.
"It's been a learning experience," DiPietro said. "It's crazy what you take for granted. I'd play all the exhibition games if I could. Things you might not have thought were important in the past become really special."
Notes & quotes: Jon Sim, who was sent down to the minors for a stint last season, hopes his unassisted power-play goal in Monday night's 2-1 loss to Vancouver in the preseason opener will give him a boost of confidence. "I think any time you score a goal or do something good, it helps . . . I'm just trying to get back to the player I was."