SAN JOSE, Calif. - With the Islanders in dire straits during their eight-game losing streak, the balance of playing time between goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Rick DiPietro has shifted in Roloson's favor.
"I just think right now with Roli playing the way he has, for me, it's a no-brainer," coach Scott Gordon said before the game. "You have to take advantage of the goaltender who is playing really well. If Ricky had some better results in his last few starts, then maybe we wouldn't be talking about that."
Although Roloson, 41, entered with a 2-6-0 record, he boasts an impressive 2.26 goals-against average in eight games. DiPietro has a 4.21 GAA, although he has been saddled with some of the team's worst performances - a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia and a 7-2 rout by Carolina - in front of him.
"Unfortunately, we haven't given him the best support when he's in the net," Gordon said. "There are goals he'd want to have back, but we've played our worst two games while he's been in net.''
And although the Islanders began the season walking a delicate line between both goaltenders - especially given DiPietro's need to shake off the cobwebs while coming back from a knee injury last season - circumstances clearly have changed.
The team has lost eight straight games in regulation for the first time in more than a decade. The last time the Islanders failed to gain at least a point in eight straight games was during a 10-game tailspin from Dec. 22, 1997-Jan. 10, 1998.
"He's made key saves,'' Gordon said of Roloson. "It's tough to get a win when you're not scoring goals, and the last two games, he's only given up three goals. He's played well all year long. He hasn't had a bad game all year, knock on wood. At this point right now he's been so solid there's no reason not to play him."
When asked how DiPietro has handled the change in playing time, Gordon alluded to some natural disappointment.
"Every goaltender wants to play all the time," Gordon said. "It's certainly not an easy thing, especially with him coming off his injury and wanting to play."
DiPietro last played Nov. 3 against Carolina in one of the team's worst games of the season.
Regardless, the Islanders' top priority is to get a win. And entering last night's game ranked 28th in the league in goals per game (2.33), they need all the help they can get.
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