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DiPietro on bench as Isles top Avalanche

New York Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo, left,

New York Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo, left, celebrates with defenseman Bruno Gervais after the Islanders' 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. (January 6, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

DENVER — Rick DiPietro’s presence on the bench during last night’s 3-2 win against the Avalanche signaled a significant change for the Islanders.

By donning the Islanders sweater for the first time in more than a year, DiPietro showed that his return is no longer a hypothetical date looming on the horizon, but one on the verge of reality.
His impending return also means the dynamics of the Islanders’ goaltending will shift to accommodate one more netminder in the mix.

Although the organization is pleased to see DiPietro’s progress, the trio of goaltenders presents a bit of a logistical and financial headache.

The Islanders openly embraced the possibility of a glut in goaltending at the beginning of the season. Given their lack of depth at the position last season, general manager Garth Snow thought the price worthwhile for solid and consistent goaltending, which they have received throughout the season from veterans Martin Biron and starter Dwayne Roloson, who last night made 30 saves in the Islanders’ first regulation win since Dec. 23.

Now that DiPietro has been officially recalled from Bridgeport and is expected to make his first NHL start soon, that healthy crowd has arrived and decisions have to be made.

“Is it ideal? No,” Snow said. “But we just have to make sure things go smoothly. If something presents itself we’ll do it.”

The most logical scenario is for the Islanders to move Biron, whom they signed to a one-year, $1.4-million deal in July. Biron spent his first game of the season as the healthy scratch and watched the Islanders top the Avalanche after Kyle Okposo went top-shelf on goaltender Craig Anderson to break a 2-2 tie with 3:17 to play.

Sources have confirmed that since DiPietro’s return, interest in Biron from other teams has intensified. If DiPietro has a successful return and the Islanders can retrieve something valuable — a quality draft pick or young asset — for Biron, a trade will be made.

If that doesn’t happen, Snow said he is in “no rush” to make a deal.

“Worst-case scenario, we have three No. 1 goalies at the deadline. It’s not a bad situation, it’s not a great situation,” Snow said.

Biron, one of the most upbeat and infectious personalities in the league, would be sorely missed in the Islanders’ dressing room, but a trade wouldn’t shock him.

When Biron was signed by the Islanders three weeks after they snatched Roloson off the market, he had reason to assume a midseason trade was a firm possibility.

“I think that’s fair to say,” said Biron’s agent, Mark Witkin, who also represents Roloson. “He knew going in about Rick’s situation and that he would eventually be back for them. The situation is such that was probably going to be the guy traded.”

That doesn’t necessarily paint a dreary picture for Biron, Witkin explained. Rather, it could provide him the opportunity of landing a starting job elsewhere.

Despite a 2-11-2 record with a 3.22 goals-against average, Biron has played fairly well. His unimpressive record largely can be attributed to a lack of offensive support.

“Marty’s an optimistic guy because he knows he’s a good goalie,” Witkin said. “He’s known around the league as a No. 1 goalie. That kind of talent wins out in the end. You can’t predict exactly what is going to happen, but whether it’s with the Islanders or not, my guess is he’ll be the starter somewhere.”

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