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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Back to Basics for DiPietro

Ten years ago, the Islanders selected an energetic, talented young goaltender from Massachusetts as the first overall pick in the NHL Draft, and started to groom him as the face of the franchise.

Now, that same goalie, with some differences, made his first start in a year last night after yet another surgery and rehab.

If you're Rick DiPietro, no doubt you're relieved by now to once more get the chance to play in the NHL, after all you've been through. Indeed, DiPietro was shaping up as one of the elite goalies in the league during the 2007-08 season, complete with an All-Star nod, when he injured his hip during the skills competition. He made it through the weekend, but the damage was done, and later on in the season he bowed out and went for surgery. The season after, 2008-09, he played a grand total of five games, experienced complications with his surgery, and took more time off to get things straightened out.

To his admittance, it was rough going. Not only do you deal with the physical stress of rehab and therapy, you also have to take into account the emotional and mental duress one is under when his job (and his dream) is in jeopardy: the wonders of how long it will take, or if it will work, and of course... would he ever play again? DiPietro said to reporters yesterday before the game against Dallas that he did wonder about that, and the depression associated with those thoughts did get to him (as it would any player), but that he listened to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's words after his comeback from injury (he missed the entire of last football season and the Pats missed the playoffs) and learned to appreciate what he has as a professional athlete.

All in all, the experience makes for a more humbled, more mature (no doubt) and perhaps a more tentative goaltender in Rick DiPietro, who knows to make the smart play and not to do too much in his first few games back for the Islanders. Last night's game was of course not his best game as an Isle; he let up a bad rebound that cost the Isles the game, and he knew it as he got back up for the ensuing face-off. But no one said that this wouldn't be expected. It takes a lot for a player at any position, after so many injuries and surgeries, to get back up to scratch, and he's got his work cut out for him. It's clear that he and the coaching staff know that, and are ready to do whatever they have to in order to improve his game and help him become consistent.

Here's to hoping it all works out.

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