Rick DiPietro practiced with the Islanders for the first time this season this morning at IceWorks in Syosset. He came away feeling good, but neither he nor coach Scott Gordon has set a target date for his return.
DiPietro was the first Islanders player on the ice for the 11 a.m. practice. He skated a few laps before stretching with the team. Marty Biron and Dwayne Roloson manned the nets for the first team drill, but DiPietro participated in the rest of the hour-and-a-half practice.
The goalie, who hasn't appeared in an NHL game since Jan. 2, said after practice that he didn't feel any tightness in his leg, which is what forced him to leave his second rehab start in Bridgeport 11 days ago after two periods.
"Every morning you wake up hoping to feel great, but the tricky part with injuries and rehab is, the next day is usually the most important how the injury responds," DiPietro said. "So far it's responding well."
Gordon said the Islanders will take a wait and see approach with DiPietro. After tomorrow's game against Toronto, the Islanders are off the next two days for their Christmas break. They return for back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday against the Rangers and Flyers, respectively.
With so little practice time this week, DiPietro may return to Bridgeport for some more work. The Sound Tigers are home Saturday and then are off until a New Year's Day game in Providence.
"You can't control the schedule," DiPietro said. "It's been a challenge all along. The schedule's so condensed now that there's limited practice time here and there's limited practice time in Bridgeport because everything's so lumped together. It's just another hurdle to get over.
"I'm sure when they [Gordon and GM Garth Snow] see that I'm ready, then I'll be in there," he continued. "Next time I get out there I'm just looking to get through a full three [periods]. The more game action you have, the better you feel."
When a reporter joked that he may see the most ice time in Utah with the Grizzlies (the Islanders' affiliate in the ECHL) DiPietro retorted, "I hear the slopes are pretty nice there this time of year."
-Doug Weight (shoulder) practiced, but is unlikely to return to the lineup until after this weekend. Sean Bergenheim (rib) skated before practiced, but did not participate in team drills.
-Gordon also expressed some disappointment in his two young stars, when he said, "We're still waiting for Kyle [Okposo] to break through, and I don't know when the last time John [Tavares] had a five-on-five goal. ... We've got to get that going and just get some consistency in scoring.
Tavares' last non-power play goal came Dec. 3 in Atlanta. He's scored 15 goals on the season -- eight on the power play, including his last four. Okposo has scored just five goals (tied for sixth on the team), but leads the club with 18 assists.