The Islanders continued their new found winning ways Monday night in Calgary, downing the Flames 5-2. The Isles are now 7-1-1 in their last nine games and playing their best hockey of the season.
Despite the victory, all the talk surrounded the latest injury to franchise goalie Rick DiPietro. DP left the game early in the second period due to an adductor strain. Nathan Lawson came on to finish the game and played very well in preserving the victory in front of his mom and other friends and family from his home town.
The Islanders presently list DiPietro as day-to-day. So, basically, it took less than two periods of play after the trade of Dwayne Roloson for DP’s fragile health to re-emerge as an issue facing the Islanders.
To further complicate things, the Flyers placed Michael Leighton on waivers yesterday. Leighton helped Philadelphia reach the Stanley Cup Finals last season with his fine and surprising play. His present contract runs through the end of the 2011-12 season with a salary of $1.5 million per season.
Isles GM Garth Snow did not put in a claim for Leighton and instead chose to promote Kevin Poulin from Bridgeport on an emergency basis. He will join the Islanders at practice on Wednesday. Until DiPietro is healthy again, Lawson and Poulin will be the Isles goalies. The team’s next game is Thursday night in Edmonton.
The fact of the matter is that as hard as he has worked, Rick DiPietro’s health is not something the Islanders can rely on. DP only played 13 games total over the past two seasons. This year, he missed time due to swelling in one of his surgically repaired knees and was just now seemingly ready to become the undisputed number one goalie on the team. That lasted less than two periods before this latest injury hit.
Snow’s decision to trade Dwayne Roloson was a risky one, but a risk worth taking. A playoff berth this season is highly unlikely and Rollie clearly didn’t fit into the Islanders long term rebuilding program. He’s 41 and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Roloson played well this season, especially in the Islanders recent hot streak. He was named the league’s first star in his last full week with the Isles. Snow dealt him to the Lightning when Roloson’s value was at its highest. In return, he got Ty Wishart, a defensive prospect and former first round draft pick with good size and offensive ability. Snow also eliminated a crowd in the crease at Bridgeport where Lawson, Poulin and Mikko Koskinen were splitting time. The lack of reps had to hamper their development.
Now the specter of DP’s shaky health has raised its ugly head again. It is doubtful the Islanders could win consistently this year with the goaltending duo of Lawson and Poulin for the long haul. It brings back memories of the 2008-09 season when injuries left the Islanders with the duo of Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis in net for most of the season. Neither of them were established NHL goalies and while they played their hearts out and had their moments, the Islanders finished last overall that year in part due to inconsistent goaltending. That was also a major reason the Islanders signed both Roloson and Martin Biron as free agents prior to the 2009-10 season.
Lawson has looked good in both NHL games that he has played. Still, he is 27 and is not considered an NHL prospect by most scouts. Poulin is playing very well in the AHL, but he is considered to be at least a year away from being NHL ready.
If DiPietro is going to miss a significant amount of time, now or at any time during this season, the Islanders do not look to be prepared to replace him. Leighton would have been a relatively inexpensive upgrade as a backup goalie for DP. Perhaps the Islanders decision not to claim Leighton means that the injury to DiPietro is not serious or that Leighton’s bad back is still a question mark.
But you can’t blame Islanders fans for being concerned. DP is injured again and even if it is minor this time, it brings back bad memories and provides a lot more questions than answers.