Neither headless nor heedless, goalie Rick DiPietro has returned from his latest concussion. He went through a full practice with the Islanders on Wednesday and flew with the team to Florida for its two-day road trip, against Tampa on Thursday and on Florida Saturday.
He is not worried about getting popped on the head again after taking teammate Brian Rolston’s shot on the mask during practice last week. “No,” DiPietro said. “You know me better than that.” He kidded that the “good part about a concussion is you make a new friend every day. Still trying to figure out what happened to get a concussion.
“But, no, you get dung up so many times in practice, you can’t be gun shy. That’s the worst thing that could happen to you — start getting flinchy about shots.”
The team’s other two goalies, Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov, also traveled to Florida and Islanders coach Jack Capuano made it clear that further evaluation of DiPietro is necessary. “Obviously,” Capuano said, “he is still coming back from [the concussion and] we want to make sure he goes through a few practices and see how he feels. But, like I said, it’s encouraging that he’s on the ice.”
DiPietro, who has played in only 39 NHL games the past three seasons because of various injuries, was upbeat after Wednesday’s team workout, facing live shots in drills, which followed his own skating session earlier in the morning. “Obviously, the entire summer I’ve been looking forward to this season,” he said, “and I’m just excited to be see how well the team’s playing. Couldn’t be prouder of guys like Johnny [Tavares] and Al, and everyone. It’s exciting. It’s an exciting time, especially for myself having not been here for a while. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of this.”
The recently elevated concern over concussions in sports, DiPietro said, “is great. You don’t want to see these guys, myself included, toward the end of their careers or afterwards, have problems with their head. But I think it’s on an individual basis, case by case, the way you react. As long as you continue to just monitor how you’re feeling through all the progression, it’s headed in the right direction.”