After making his season debut in Dallas more than a week ago, goaltender Rick DiPietro is looking forward to the next milestone in his return. Not since Dec. 26, 2008, has DiPietro played in front of a home crowd at Nassau Coliseum. Will Saturday night be the night?
"It's going to be exciting," DiPietro said. "I've always said I like playing here in front of this crowd. It definitely makes it easy to take your game to that next level. Whenever it happens, it happens, but I'm definitely looking forward to it."
When the Islanders host Buffalo Saturday night, it very well could be the fans' first glimpse of DiPietro since his recovery from season-ending knee surgery last year.
On Friday, coach Scott Gordon remained consistent with his policy of not naming his starting goaltender, but signs seem to indicate that DiPietro will get the nod.
Not only did he have three days to work with goaltender consultant Sudarshan Maharaj to refine his game since a 24-save performance in which he allowed four goals last weekend, but DiPietro also had his own net during practice Friday while fellow goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron split reps at the other end of the ice.
"It's the most consecutive days of practice in a long time, so it's a good opportunity to get back in there, get used to that pace, sharpen up and get ready for the next time I get the chance to play," DiPietro said.
Tightening up those little things - reaction to scrambles in front of the net, moving around the crease and rebound control - were areas of focus for DiPietro during practice this week, although Gordon said he was pretty satisfied with his play in Dallas last week.
Gordon said he couldn't have asked for much more, "other than making another big save. There wasn't anything wrong with his game. It was probably better than expected."
But simply staying healthy and showing he can play at the NHL level is not enough for DiPietro, who would like to post his first win of the season in his first home appearance.
"The main focus for me is to get sharp enough to where I'm contributing wins and solid efforts," DiPietro said. "I'm not just satisfied to go in there and get games. It's got to be 'go in there and play really well,' and that's what I am pushing forward toward here."