Although injured goaltender Rick DiPietro was slated to return "at some point this week," that outlook now looks like less of a certainty.

DiPietro, who suffered a groin strain in the Islanders' 5-2 win over Calgary on Jan. 3, practiced Wednesday with the team but not Thursday during the morning skate. He skated on his own beforehand and faced shots from goaltending consultant Sudarshan Maharaj.

When asked if he might play Saturday, coach Jack Capuano offered a lukewarm "it's possible."

"We're not going to rush him, but he's feeling much better," Capuano said before last night's game.

Soon after DiPietro's departure from the Islanders on their recent 11-day road trip - he flew back to New York three days early for rest and further evaluation - both Capuano and general manager Garth Snow said DiPietro was expected to return this week.

But 20-year-old Kevin Poulin was awarded the start Thursday night after his 48-save performance in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Canucks.

"After the performance he had, he deserves to get right back in there and get back at it again," Capuano said before Poulin made his third NHL start. He was pulled in the first period and went back in the game in the third. Poulin, who was 10-4-0 in 14 games for Bridgeport this season, was called up to replace DiPietro last week.

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Nielsen still out

Frans Nielsen missed his fifth straight game since suffering a groin injury in the same game in which DiPietro was injured. The Islanders had planned to activate him off injured reserve Thursday but ultimately decided against it.

Rakhshani on injured list

The severity of call-up Rhett Rakhshani's concussion suffered in Tuesday night's game remains unclear, but he was placed on injured reserve.