With Rick DiPietro experiencing a bout of knee swelling last month, Bridgeport goaltender Nathan Lawson was called up by the Islanders and promptly thrust into the goaltending rotation.
Although veteran netminder Dwayne Roloson was healthy and willing, it was Lawson who was awarded his first NHL start against the Phoenix Coyotes before being sent back to Bridgeport days later.
A little more than two weeks removed from Lawson’s 32-save performance in the team’s 4-3 shootout loss, the 27-year-old Calgary native is looking at a more permanent stint with the Islanders.
General manager Garth Snow shipped Roloson, 41, to Tampa Bay in exchange for defensive prospect Ty Wishart Saturday, leaving Lawson the opportunity to fill the void left in the Islanders’ goaltending tandem.
And with his one-year, two-way contract with the Islanders expiring at the end of this season, Lawson plans to use that opportunity to his advantage.
“Make a name for myself,” Lawson said when asked what he hopes to accomplish. “Every time I get the nod, I need to give it 110%.”
"It's going to be a situation like some of the other guys,” head coach Jack Capuano said. "They are in the latter part of their contract and it's a good chance to take a look at these guys and see what they are made of."
Capuano said he had not yet devised a plan for how to appropriate starts between DiPietro and Lawson, saying instead that he’d take it “day by day.”
“If it comes down to where Nathan got to get some minutes for us, then he’s going to get the opportunity and we’ll re-evaluate it game-by-game,” Capuano said when asked if he felt confident Lawson could handle the bulk of the workload should DiPietro head back to injured reserve.
Certainly a legitimate question given DiPietro’s recent stint late last month for swelling in his surgically-repaired left knee.
“I have to be confident I can do that,” said Lawson, who is slated to back up DiPietro tonight. “I really, really hope it doesn’t come down to that. I hope he has the best of luck and hope that he can finish the season strong and prove to everyone he’s healthy and able to be a top goalie in this league.”
Snow’s decision to move Roloson in the midst of the Islanders 5-of-6 winning streak drew some criticism and sparked suspicion that he was already looking forward to next season.
Snow denied that assertion, however and stood behind Lawson as one of the reasons he felt comfortable in making such a move.
“Nathan Lawson played one game for us but in those 65 minutes he played extremely well,” Snow told Newsday following the Roloson trade. “Nate is still young in terms of goalie standards and is approaching the age when goalies hit their stride. He’s still developing, but this is a great opportunity for him.”