On Friday, Islanders head coach Scott Gordon was asked by the media who would get the start in net on opening night. Usually coaches aren’t forthcoming with this kind of information, trying to deflect any questions, but the Islanders starter slipped through Gordon’s lips with ease as he said, “Ricky (DiPietro),” matter of factly.
The Islanders goaltender has been battling injuries for the past two seasons, only getting 13 starts in net (eight in 2009-10 and 5 in 2008-09). But what’s most important is the goaltender is completely healthy for the first time in three years, looking to improve upon his NHL all-time .905 save percentage and 2.79 goals against average. So getting the start between the pipes for the Islanders season opener is one that comes with a lot of anticipation.
“I’m excited,” DiPietro said after skating in the Islanders first morning skate of the regular season. “Words can’t even put into what I’m feeling right now. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the first time in a long time that I get a chance to be here for opening night. It’s going to be a good test, but I think we’re ready.”
The goaltender has always loved playing here on Long Island, saying that New York sports fans are some of the best, but he also sees the potential of the Islanders young roster and is ready for a fantastic season.
“I made a commitment to the organization and they made a huge commitment to me and that’s what motivates me,” DiPietro said. “I said it all along that the goal here is to win a Stanley Cup here on Long Island and that’s a promise I want to keep. Every day I come to the rink, every day I’m at home and get an opportunity to make myself better, I’m going to do it. That’s what they pay me to do. One percent of the entire world has the opportunity to be a professional athlete. I take it upon myself to do everything I can to make sure that I fulfill that commitment.”
Words can’t even put into what I’m feeling right now. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the first time in a long time that I get a chance to be here for opening night. It’s going to be a good test, but I think we’re ready.- Rick DiPietro
Coach Gordon had a lot of good things to say about the veteran goaltender who saw 26 shots last Saturday, stopping all but one puck, leading the Islanders to their only preseason victory in a 2-1 game over the New Jersey Devils.
“He’s ready. I like the way he played the last (preseason) game,” said Gordon. “He made some big saves. This has been a long wait for him to be ready for the start of the year. He’s deserved it. He’s put a lot of time in to get to this point and we certainly want to reward him for all the hard work he put in to it.”
Coach Gordon isn’t the only one who is happy the veteran goaltender is getting the start. DiPietro’s teammates are looking forward to seeing him between the pipes because they know how hard he has worked over the past few seasons.
“It’s exciting. It’s exciting for him, I’m really happy for Ricky,” said Islanders forward Matt Moulson after Friday’s practice at Iceworks. “You get happy for a guy like that who obviously battled a lot of hard things. I’m just proud of him that he’s come out of this thing on top. It’s exciting to see him back, and out starting the season. He’s obviously one of the best goalies in the world. He brings a lot of energy and some great goaltending, so it’s exciting to see him get the season home-opening start.”
Even though the team is excited to start their season at home in front of their fans, they are expecting the Dallas Stars to come out of the gates ready to play. The Stars won their season opener at the Prudential Center on Friday night when forward Loui Eriksson netted his second goal of the game at 1:36 into the overtime period, propelling Dallas to a 4-3 victory.
“I expect them (Dallas) to play with a lot of energy,” Gordon said on Friday at Iceworks. “They have some pretty skilled forwards that are tough to contain. And it’s kind of, I think, a new era for them as far as Mike Modano and Marty Turco not being there, so you’re looking some other players that are given the opportunity to establish themselves.”
After the Islanders last practice before the start of the regular season, Gordon explained what he thought the most important things the Isles squad will have to concentrate on during their first game of the season, saying that the team needs to establish some momentum in the first five minutes by playing a little risky, although staying out of the penalty box is crucial.
Gordon watched the Stars play their season opener on television last night, so he knows that the Islanders will be up against a team who will be coming out to win. “Their forwards I thought really were the difference in the game,” Gordon said after the Islanders morning skate on Saturday. “They competed really hard. They put the Devils on their heels quite a bit. That’s something our D are going to have to be prepared for, the pressure coming down the ice.”
DiPietro also watched the game on television. He knows the Stars have a lot of talent on the front lines, evidenced by their comeback from a 0-2 deficit. But he’s ready to battle through for the Islanders first win of the season.
“The learning’s over,” DiPietro said. “We know we can win. I think we proved that last year. Now it’s up to us. We got a lot of guys that had a good chance to have a lot of experience last year and put in different situations. (Now) it’s time to take ownership of each other and push each other to be better than we were last year.”
Even though the Islanders are expecting Dallas to come out of the gates hard, they are still confident they will bring home two points tonight, getting the Islanders season off the ground with the right start.
“A win,” said forward Matt Moulson about what he expects from the Islanders tonight. “That’s what you expect, you expect a win. We talked about improving and growing as a group of young guys and adding guys. Our goals this season, we talked about, is winning, get to the playoffs and see what we can do from there. That’s our goal and we plan to start it off (Saturday) with a win.”