With the swelling in his left knee yet to subside and less than three weeks remaining in the season, injured goaltender Rick DiPietro is done for the year, Newsday has learned.
DiPietro, who was placed on injured reserve retroactive to February 28 with knee swelling, has not played in a game for almost three months—since the Islanders’ 3-1 loss to Carolina February 6—and will not appear in another game for the team this season.
Even if the swelling in his knee disappears and DiPietro shows signs of significant improvement in the near future, the 28-year-old netminder does not conceivably have enough practice time remaining to return to game shape before season’s end. With seven games left and the Islanders eight points removed the 8th place the Eastern Conference standings, a place in the post-season looks highly improbable.
Considering the long, grueling road DiPietro has taken to rehab his surgically-repaired knee, the team also does not want to rush him back for any reason and risk further aggravating the injury.
However, DiPietro will resume practicing with the team if he makes strides, if only to allow the team’s medical staff an opportunity to learn more about the condition.
Given the nature of DiPietro’s injury and his medical history—multiple surgeries over the past three years—the Islanders want to pinpoint what causes the knee swelling and how the condition can be treated or avoided in the future.
While this decision halts any speculation about a potential return before the end of the Islanders regular season April 11, questions regarding DiPietro’s long-term future will certainly persist.
DiPietro, who was 2-5-0 with a 9.00 save percentage and 2.60 goals against average in eight games this season, still has 11 years remaining on his 15-year, $67.5 million contract and has played only 13 games over the past two seasons.
Despite DiPietro’s unfortunate injury struggles, however, Islanders general manager Garth Snow said he’s optimistic that DiPietro can have a productive future with the team.
“We feel that working with our goaltending coaches this summer, Rick will return to top form,” Snow said.
Earlier this week, DiPietro told reporters he was encouraged by his return to the NHL back in January, but he remained uncertain whether he’d play again for the Islanders this season.
“It’s not a wasted year,” he said. “I proved I could come back and play in the NHL. I know I can play. I’ve already proved it. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
When asked about his most recent stint on injured reserve, DiPietro said:
“It’s not even a setback. You can’t turn back time. I did what the doctor said to do. Is it frustrating? Yeah. But it’s part of what happens to athletes.”