DP Likely To Return On Road Trip, How Will Fans Respond?

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Before I start my entry on Rick DiPietro's long awaited return to the New York Islanders line-up, I thought I should introduce myself.

My name is Rob McGowan. I am a recent graduate of Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in English with a Minor in History. I will shortly be starting Graduate School at CUNY Queens to achieve my Masters Degree as an Elementary School teacher with Special Ed. certification. My life has revolved around hockey for the passed decade and still does to this day. I still play ice hockey with some roller thrown in once in a while, coached high school roller hockey, and currently officiate ice hockey as well.

I am also a member of the NYI Blog Box, a program in which the Islanders supply media credentials to myself and other bloggers for selected games that we choose to attend. We have the opportunity of bringing our laptops to the games to conduct live blogs, are supplied game notes with line-up information as well as stat sheets, and have the permission to attend the post-game press conferences to interview the players and coaches after the game. We also can conduct phone interviews as well.

My blog particularly focuses on the Islanders youth movement. It has been under the My HockeyBuzz section at HockeyBuzz for the past two years and is entitled "Off The Post." I try to write about the the younger players; monitoring their progress over the season while analyzing what may or may not effect the way they play such as trades, line-up changes, injuries, etc. I also try to go deeper into the talent pool and look at their prospects that aren't on the Islanders line-up. For example, a few months back I interviewed Islanders defensive prospect Travis Hamonic of the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors. Currently I am working on an interview with 2009 12th overall pick Calvin de Haan, but it hasn't been easy since he is playing in the World Junior Championships right now.

The web site for the Blog Box, which contains my blog as well as all the others can be found here.

I am very excited to be on board with the other bloggers here at The Checking Line and thank George Prax for the opportunity that he has given me.

Now back to DP...

Although his injury issues are not commonplace, nor are they necessarily his fault, I am very curious to see how fans will react to his return on Coliseum ice. I for one am excited to see that he is on this road trip that starts in Colorado on Wednesday. Chris Botta at Islanders Point Blank is guessing that he will either play Friday against Dallas or Saturday against Phoenix. It's really anyone's guess when he will play, but even though the coaching staff isn't revealing their intentions, the fact that three goaltenders are on the plane is enough to suggest that all will get to play at least one game.

But this is something that needs to be remembered. Last year the Islanders finished in last place. They were fielding a young team that lacked experience from the net out. The goaltending was one of the major issues with Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis sharing the starting duties. Keep in mind that Marty Biron and Dwayne Roloson have been keeping this team in contention this season. If Ricky didn't rush himself back from injury last year or play himself so many games in a row, he might have played last year and the last place finish may have been avoided. Of course then we probably would not have had John Tavares on our team, but let's not nit-pick shot for shot. The bottom line is that Ricky didn't handle his recovery well and has been forced to miss almost two years of hockey. This is a man who is supposed to be the backbone of the franchise with his 15-year contract which still has a major chunk to go.

So will fans boo him when he returns? Or will they cheer and support him?

I am hoping that Ricky returns to his true form of being the all-star goaltender he was before he got injured. This team needs him to rise above his injuries and lead from the net out. But that also means he needs to be more responsible. He has shown signs of maturity by sitting himself in the Bridgeport game when he felt tightness after the first two periods, but he has to maintain that when he's back in the NHL. He's going to be excited to return and if there is a problem I can see him wanting to hide it. Ricky needs to realize that the big picture is more important than him playing one game as opposed to playing for years.

Another thing to look for in Ricky's return is a resurgent Islanders team. If he can start playing for a stretch in the way the team and fans remember him playing, I expect the whole squad to be inspired to a new length. Any team that gets it's star player back after an extended absence is likely to play at a different level, a different pace. DP has the potential to be that inspiration for the Islanders.

There is plenty of hockey left to be played and the Islanders are still within reach of the playoffs. A successful ending to this season is a healthy DiPietro finishing the year in one piece and the Islanders younger players reaching new career highs and accepting new roles. The icing on the cake would be if DiPietro is able to bring them into the playoffs. But even if that doesn't happen, it will be encouraging to see this team together the way it was drawn up on the board.

Let's keep our fingers crossed it stays that way. As for me, I will be one fan who cheers for Ricky's return at the Coliseum, however soon that may be.

-Rob McGowan

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