One of Rick DiPietro’s least favorite things to do is pack.
He may be doing that soon, however, as it appears the 28 year-old rehabbing goaltender has a good chance of accompanying the Islanders when they embark on their next road Tuesday.
The Islanders have not confirmed whether DiPietro will be on the team charter when they begin their three-game Western jaunt, but his official recall from Bridgeport and presence at practice Monday indicates that is a likely possibility.
After playing two full games in less than 48 hours and participating in a vigorous 90-minute practice with the team Monday, DiPietro said he is feeling healthy and anxious to return.
“It’s exciting,” DiPietro said. “It feels good to feel like myself again. It’s been a long time since I’ve been healthy. At this point, it’s just about continuing to get sharp and game-ready.”
DiPietro, who has been rehabbing a surgically-repaired knee since August, said he was happy with how his leg responded after the two rehab games he played for Bridgeport this weekend. He was also encouraged that he felt healthy enough to participate Monday following the quick turnaround.
Scott Gordon said he was pleasantly surprised to see DiPietro on the ice facing shots with fellow netminders Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron Monday and considered that a good sign.
“Obviously if he had any doubts, he wouldn’t have been,” Gordon said.
DiPietro, who was 1-2-0 with a .883 save percentage in four appearances with Bridgeport this season, said it’s difficult to assess how close he is to playing at a level up to his standards. Some rust is expected given DiPietro has not played in over a year and has appeared in only five games since March 2008.
“It’s tough to tell until you get into an NHL game. It’s one of those things where you continue to practice, face as many shots as you can, and keep working on tracking the puck,” DiPietro said. “We’ll see after I get my first game under my belt.”
DiPietro said he was unsure if he’ll make his NHL season debut during one of the stops of this particular road stretch that brings the Islanders to Colorado, Dallas and Phoenix, but he’s looking forward to the possibility.
“It’s an exciting time. It sucks having missed the first half of season, but this is the most exciting part,” DiPietro said. “It’s going to be excited going down the stretch trying to make the playoff push.”
With conditioning stints in the American Hockey League now behind him, only his return to NHL remains. Given how long it has taken for him to get to this point, DiPietro is still hesitant to feel any twinge of relief.
“I’m done exhaling, I still hold my breath,” DiPietro said. “ I’ll never forget the day I had to get surgery. It was tough. To think at this age you could have career taken away from you, it’s a scary thought. I’ve played a couple games in Bridgeport and that’s been a thrill. I can only imagine when I get back on the ice with these guys.”