By Chris Botta
(TAMPA BAY) When the Islanders took the ice at the St. Pete Times Forum today at 1:45 pm, their No. 1 goaltender was right there with them.
Rick DiPietro took part in his first practice since his injury last Tuesday night in Montreal. He was there from the beginning until the workout ended at 3:15 pm, stopped plenty of pucks and was his usual, energetic self. After practice, he did not rule out the possibility of starting when the Islanders face the Lightning on Tuesday night at 7:30 pm (FSN, 1130 Bloomberg Radio).
"It's important that we're cautious," DiPietro told newyorkislanders.com. "I felt good out there. I can't tell you how great it was to be back on the ice with the guys."
Asked point-blank if he planned on starting Tuesday night, DiPietro said he wanted to and hoped to but added, "We'll see. It's just too early to tell right now. I had a good practice and that's a good start. But let's see how the morning skate goes tomorrow and then take it from there. Like I said, we have to be cautious. We have to make a decision based on what's best for me and the team, long-term."
Islanders head coach Ted Nolan expressed similar sentiments: "Ricky looked good, no question about it. One thing about Ricky is you never question his hunger to win and his desire to be there for his team. I'm not committing to anything right now. We'll see how he looks tomorrow and then make the right decision for the team and for him."
Nolan said that if DiPietro sat out Tuesday, he would likely give a start to Bridgeport's No. 1 goaltender, Wade Dubielewicz. And if DiPietro did start, veteran Mike Dunham would be the backup.
Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron missed practice today to be in Quebec with his wife, who was giving birth. Bergeron said he would re-join the team tonight, but Nolan told the dman he should spend as much time as he could with his family as long as he was in Tampa Bay for the opening faceoff Tuesday night...
At today's practice, the Blake-Yashin-Smyth and Hilbert-Sillinger-Hunter lines were intact. Viktor Kozlov, Arron Asham and Richard Park who all saw their icetime significantly cut in Saturday's loss to the Panthers skated together. Randy Robitaille skated between Miro Satan and Richard Zednik...
Nolan said he liked Zednik's play, work ethic and intensity, and that the coach was having trouble putting him in the right places to succeed. Zednik should get his chance in a big game tomorrow night...
The Islanders return home for a match on Thursday at the Coliseum against Crosby, Malkin, Staal and the Penguins. After playing a matinee in Philadelphia on Saturday, the Islanders host the Rangers at the Coliseum on Sunday at 12:30 pm.