Rehabbing goaltender Rick DiPietro will return to practice with the Islanders next week, the team announced Friday in a statement.
DiPietro sat out the third period of his second scheduled rehab start in Springfield last Friday because of leg "tightness" and missed what originally was slated to be his third and final start of the conditioning stint Tuesday.
"Rick has followed the protocol for his rehabilitation diligently," general manager Garth Snow said in the statement. "He experienced tightness and discomfort in his leg during the Bridgeport game on Friday, December 11, and we felt it was in his best interest to sit out the rest of the game. He will resume practicing with the Islanders beginning next week and we will continue to be cautious and look at his recuperation as a long-term process."
DiPietro, who has been rehabbing a surgically repaired knee since August, saw team doctors and a specialist after experiencing the discomfort Friday and then sought a second opinion this week. There was no prognosis, but the fact that the oft-injured goaltender will return to practice soon could indicate that whatever tightness he experienced was relatively minor.
However, given DiPietro's track record with injuries - multiple surgeries during the past two years - the Islanders will proceed with caution.
The fact remains that although DiPietro may be healthy, the 40 minutes he played in two games for Bridgeport was not enough to prepare him for games at the NHL level. He likely will be sent back to play at least one full AHL game before his season debut with the Islanders.