Al Montoya has never even been in an NHL uniform for a season opener in his six previous pro seasons, much less in goal to start. That changes tonight when the 26-year-old former Rangers first-round pick gets the call to open the Islanders season against the Panthers.
"It's huge. I have to thank the guys here, the Islanders organization for giving me an opportunity," Montoya said. "You feel like you're stuck in a place for a long time, but you never know who's watching."
The Islanders were in dire straits when they traded a sixth-round pick to the Coyotes for Montoya on Feb. 9. He came in right away and produced for his new team, going 9-5-5 with a 2.39 GAA and .921 save percentage. Now, after a good training camp, he gets the nod over Rick DiPietro, who also had a good camp and came in healthy.
Perhaps the old DiPietro might have bristled, even publicly, at not getting the start. But he was more than fine with Jack Capuano's decision.
"It's competition -- it's good, it's healthy," DiPietro said. "I said all the way through that my main focus coming into the season was to feel as good as I possibly could, health-wise. I've done that. The coaches have decisions to make and I'm fine with it.
"Let's be honest -- I haven't made things easy on myself the last three years. You leave the door open for other guys to get their chance if you can't stay healthy. I feel good right now, my body feels good -- that's all productive stuff."