Al Montoya #35 of the New York Islanders keeps his...

Al Montoya #35 of the New York Islanders keeps his eye on the puck against the Minnesota Wild. (Oct. 10, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Among the Islanders' incidents and accidents of 2010-11, Al Montoya got his shot at redemption, and now is demonstrating how sport's meritocracy can be a gratifying thing.

"This is great," Montoya said of playing goalie the first two games. "This is everything I've trained for, for however many years it's been. I worked hard this summer to be in this position and, yeah, I'm having fun. Ride it out as long as I can."

A series of injuries and the midseason trade of Dwayne Roloson conspired to bring Montoya in a February deal from Phoenix. "I just knew [becoming an Islander] would be a better situation than I was in," he said Tuesday. "When I came here, it was the grass was greener, definitely, on this side. I saw the situation here, the opportunity. Play well, play strong, practice well and you're going to get your shot, and that's what I've been doing."

Originally a first-round draft choice of the Rangers in 2004, Montoya's year in Phoenix -- he played a total of five games -- was no more encouraging than being stuck in the Rangers' farm system while Henrik Lundqvist emerged as an All-Star. Starting over with the Islanders, he finished the season with the best goals-against average (2.39) among the six netminders who were pressed into action.

For 2011-12, with coach Jack Capuano attempting to work out the kinks for this long-dormant team by emphasizing work habits and performance over experience and size of paychecks, Montoya emerged from training camp ahead of Rick DiPietro, whose healthy contract runs through 2021, and Evgeni Nabokov, with 293 NHL career victories to his credit.

Montoya had "no idea" he would be in goal for the first two games, which resulted in a win and a loss, 1.52 GAA and .940 save percentage. "I saw the lineup just like everybody else did," he said. "Coming into camp, I had finished last year off strong and I just wanted to keep that rolling, and I got the nod from the coaches.

"There's a bunch of guys here capable of playing; I understand that," Montoya said. "But, you know, I work hard and let the coaches make those decisions. I'm just focused on that you're going to be rewarded for your play."

Notes & quotes: F Trevor Gillies (groin) rejoined his teammates for a brief practice session; D Milan Jurcina (groin) and F Nino Niederreiter (groin) did not.

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