EDMONTON - Even when the Islanders are riding high, the injuries continue to come.
Despite entering last night 7-1-1 in their last nine games, the enthusiasm was tempered by some daunting injury news.
Just two hours before Nathan Lawson replaced injured goaltender Rick DiPietro and made his second NHL start, the Islanders announced that veteran defenseman Mark Eaton is out indefinitely. He will need surgery on his right hip.
Eaton, 33, is the latest loss to an Islanders blue line that has been decimated by injury. The team's back end has been saddled with dispiriting losses of key veterans at almost every turn of the season.
Mark Streit has yet to play a game since suffering a preseason shoulder injury, Radek Martinek is on injured reserve with a left wrist injury, Mike Mottau is done for the year after season-ending surgery on his right hip and now Eaton's prognosis looks similarly bleak.
Milan Jurcina, Andrew MacDonald, Bruno Gervais and Jack Hillen also have missed time this season and James Wisniewski recently was traded to Montreal. Travis Hamonic is the defenseman on the current roster with the longest streak of games played; the rookie played in his 18th straight last night.
Lawson, 27, came off the bench cold when DiPietro left 5:40 into the middle frame and turned away 28 of the 29 shots that followed to lead the Islanders to a 5-2 win over the Flames in his hometown of Calgary.
That poise under pressure - and the Islanders' limited options - led coach Jack Capuano to go back to Lawson last night against the Oilers. "It means a lot to me. I know has confidence in me. I think the guys in here have confidence in me. I just have to go out there, stick with a game plan and do my job," Lawson said before making his second NHL start.
Although DiPietro's injury doesn't seem to be too serious - he skated yesterday and rode the stationary bike after practice - he was unable to play last night.
The last time DiPietro suffered a minor setback but still managed to skate - when Lawson made his first NHL start Dec. 18 - he served a short stint on injured reserve with swelling in his left knee.
After Monday's performance, Capuano believed Lawson is up to the challenge.
"You saw a guy that battled,'' he said. "Obviously, he's waited a while to get into this position from the ECHL to the AHL, and I'm sure he's going to make the most of that opportunity."
But Lawson was replaced after only 5:17 last night, having given up two goals on three shots. Kevin Poulin replaced him and played well as the Oilers took a 2-1 lead into the third period. Blake Comeau scored for the Isles at 13:00 of the second.
Notes & quotes: Frans Nielsen, who suffered a groin strain Monday, did not play. Trevor Gillies replaced him . . . Doug Weight, on injured reserve with a back injury, joined the team in Calgary and skated. There is no timetable for his return.