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Hits keep coming, but DiPietro continues to persevere

For Rick DiPietro, bad luck never seems to abate.

Take the most recent example: One day after he’s taken off injured reserve for facial fractures that sidelined him for six weeks, his beloved 5-year-old bulldog Roxy got hit by a car and killed.

Instead of embarking on a three-game road trip with pure, unadulterated excitement over his return, DiPietro did so with a heavy heart.

"It always seems like something,” DiPietro said in a candid interview with reporters Friday. “Whether it's my face or my dog getting hit by a car the night before we left for the road trip. It just seems like everything's piling on here.”

Such is the maddening misfortune that has haunted him over the past three seasons. Since signing a 15-year $67.5 million-dollar deal in 2006, DiPietro has endured a staggering amount of procedures and ailments—hip and knee surgeries, concussions, and most recently, a shattered face suffered in a fight with Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson last month.

"I think the biggest thing I've learned from all of this, especially dealing with my knee, is that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger,” DiPietro said. “Stuff happens and you have to learn from it and become a better person. I think I've become a better person, a more patient person. I respect and cherish what I have here and that makes me work that much harder to come back. "

DiPietro will make yet another return from injury Saturday, when he is expected to start against the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.

He’ll do so with four plates and multiple screws surgically inserted in his face to keep the fragile bones intact.

“I’m having some trouble with metal detectors these days,” DiPietro joked. “I’m almost bionic at this point. Hopefully, I’ll be metal by the time I retire and we won’t have to worry about injuries anymore. Like the Tin Man, just lube me up and I’ll be ready to go.”

Like his steely resolve, DiPietro’s sharp sense of humor has remained intact. He can attribute both for helping him through multiple seasons of injury hell.

“I’ve been through a lot the past couple of years,” he said. “You want to be part of something special. I've always said I thought we have a special group of guys here and I think you're starting to see that on the ice. I'm just thrilled to be back."

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