Rick DiPietro made his first return on Coliseum ice last night against the Buffalo Sabres, the second placed team in the East with 64 points and a 29-11-6 record. It took Overtime and a shootout for a decision to be made, but DP shined in a 3-2 win and a shootout that lasted 8 rounds.
It only took a matter of 20 seconds or so before Ricky made his first save of the game. The crowd immediately got behind him and started the DP chants, something he hasn't heard in what might feel like a life time.
"It's good to get action early," Rick said in regards to stopping four shots early on in the first period. "Obviously it helps out when you got the D in front of you clearing pucks and clearing bodies and you're able to see them. I can't even...I mean, I'm tongue tied. I don't even know what to say. I'm just happy and excited and looking forward to the next opportunity."
The defense did play a very controlled game in front of the returning net-minder. He didn't have to make many sprawling, highlight reel saves and was well positioned for most of the game.
"I thought I was moving around the crease better than I was in Dallas," Rick said.
"It's satisfying but there is a lot of work still ahead. You can't sit here and get complacent. I'll think about this one for a little bit tonight obviously." He did look very relaxed and excited in the locker room after the game. The fact that he was able to joke with the media a little bit is good to see too. He wasn't showing any signs of discomfort. He just looked a professional athlete happy to be making his way back into the NHL.
One reporter asked him about his stamina and whether or not he felt good keeping up with the play. "That's probably a question you should ask my wife," he said. He continued with a serious answer once everyone stopped laughing. "But as far as the game is concerned I felt good. I had some chances there in the second to catch my breath, we had some sustained pressure and kept the puck in their zone for quite a bit of time."
The second period was certainly the better period for the Islanders. At the end of forty minutes they had a total of 31 shots to the Sabres 17.
At the other end of the ice, Ryan Miller was making some sick stops, including a beautiful one on Frans Nielsen that had the whole arena cheering for a goal but were left disappointed. At times the Islanders probably should have have buried a few rebounds that Miller was giving up in tight. However the Sabres defense did a good job of blocking shots and clearing away loose pucks before any Isles forwards could get to them.
The best part about this win is that it puts the Islanders in the top-8 in the East. They currently are 7-2-1 in their last ten games and are just four points behind the 5th placed Boston Bruins. Of course, they are still only a few points from falling down to 13th in their Conference as well. The important thing is that this team is on a roll, winning three in a row and have their starting goaltender back.
One fan made a remark that if Rick can return to his old self that it's just like acquiring an impact player at the trade deadline. If he can be that impact player, this team can make a serious run in the last 30-plus games left in the season.
Tomorrow I'll return to the Blog Box when the Isles host the New Jersey Devils for a Martin Luther King Day matinee at 2PM.
I plan on doing a Live Blog over at The Hockey Writers if you are home for the game. Feel free to drop by and leave comments at http://thehockeywriters.com/author/rmcgowan/
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