DiPietro; Salt In An Open Wound
It was reported yesterday that Rick DiPietro was being sent home for medical evaluations before the road trip even began as he had sustained yet another injury to add to the many setbacks of his career. Mike Mottau was also returned to Long Island with an upper-body injury. However, the story surrounding DiPietro is that this guy hadn't been playing; he was already on the Injured Reserve.
You have to wonder how a guy like Rick finds a way to injure himself while he is already...well...injured. He wasn't playing in games, although he had been skating on the ice. And according to Art Staple of Newsday, DiPietro wasn't even close to dressing as a back-up for any of the games on this road trip that saw them play Carolina last night, Anaheim on Friday and Phoenix on Saturday.
At this point anything is believable. For all we know, DP might have sneezed too hard and pulled a muscle. The guy simply just can't catch a break. All we do know is that it is being called a lower-body injury for now, the famous term for literally anything from the waist down ranging from a minor muscle pull to a fractured femur. Like Staple speculates in his article, it could be related to a previous injury to his knee or groin, or can be entirely new all together.
Out of 37 games this year, DiPietro has only played in eight of them, six of which he started; a distinct difference in ratio when compared to the 82 games that are in a season that will only grow with the new lower-body injury. In the past four years, DiPietro has only played in 47 games (5, 8, 26 and 8) and his statistics have been anything but impressive. His GAA continues to climb over 3.00 every season, currently at 3.73 with his save percentage getting worse. In those four years, it has gone from .892 to .876. I think most would agree that you would like to see your starting goaltender have it around 92-93 percent. But then again, you have to actually be playing the majority of the games in a season in order to be called the starter.
Al Montoya has proven that he can be a starting goaltender in this league, although he ironically is out with a concussion at this time after getting steam rolled by Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets two weeks ago. And Evgeni Nabokov has played pretty well in the absence of both DiPietro and Montoya. Kevin Poulin is working on his game with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and earned his first shutout of his professional career against the Worcester Sharks on Monday afternoon. Mikko Koskinen, who is playing in SM-Liga in Sweden, has put up excellent numbers after leaving the Sound Tigers to get more playing time. Anders Nilsson was having a strong year in his first professional season in North America as well and is currently serving as Nabokov's back-up.
The New York Islanders have been preparing for the day that they might not need Rick DiPietro, whether they want to admit it or not. At the very least, the organization has done what is responsible of them in order to make the on ice product competitive between the pipes, whether it be due to trades, waiver pick-ups or drafting. But the major obstacle staring everyone in the face is that DiPietro's contract keeps him here until the end of the 2021 season.
Thinking back on when DP was drafted as an aspiring, energetic and confident 18-year old goaltender, at the end of the day you sadly find yourself wondering how much longer his body will actually last.