With all the bad injury news surrounding the Islanders this month, the good news has often been overlooked. Both Doug Weight and Rick DiPeitro played well in the Isles 2-1 win over the Devils Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum and the team’s 39-year-old captain and their franchise goalie are looking to play bigger roles for the club this season after missing most of last year with injuries.
Weight only played in 36 games last season and struggled to overcome a painful shoulder injury. He bravely tried to play through it, but eventually agreed to have season-ending surgery. He finished with just one goal and 16 assists, both career lows, but the fact was that he was physically unable to play at the level he was accustomed to because he had so little strength in his injured shoulder.
Tonight, Weight made a play against the Devils to set up the first goal of the night by Josh Bailey at the 5:47 mark. He raced to the corner, used his strength to get the puck and took a hit to make a play, something he admits he could not do effectively last season because of his injured shoulder.
“On that play, I wanted to get to the puck first,” Weight explained. “It’s been about 12 months since I’ve wanted that. It’s exciting.”
Coach Scott Gordon was impressed by the play Weight made on the Bailey goal. “We didn’t see any of that last year, not even close” Gordon said. “I don’t even know if we saw that the first year. He’s certainly playing with more confidence than I’ve seen him play with over the last few years.”
DiPietro also sees a big difference in Weight during training camp. “He feels young again,” DP explained. “When you’re hurt and you’re in pain all the time, you start to feel your age and the game becomes more of a job. He worked his butt of this summer, came in in great shape, as we knew he would, and it’s starting to pay dividends for him.”
The Islanders hope a healthy Weight can be a big factor in the team’s continued improvement this year. Gordon likes what he’s seen out of his captain who now has three assists and is a plus-two in two preseason games.
“It’s very encouraging because it’s one thing to be a leader in the room but I know how hard he wants to be successful on the ice and to perform for this team and that’s as close as we’ve seen to Dougie at his best,” Gordon said.
Meanwhile, DiPietro made 25 saves against the Devils to earn the Isles’ first win of the preseason. DP’s injury history has been well documented over the past few years but he finally appears to be healthy and ready to go.
“It was good tonight, got some shots, some traffic, some bumps,” he said in the locker room after the game, trying hard to contain his smile.
DP also denied Devils’ star Ilya Kovalchuk on a penalty shot at the 6:41 mark of the first period. The shot hit the post. “Against a team like that, I’d take the penalty shot over a 4-on-3 power play. He made a good move but hit the post and we were able to keep our momentum.”
Gordon was also pleased with his goalie’s play although he would not commit to who would start next Saturday night when the Isles open their season against the Dallas Stars at the Coliseum. “He was real solid. Obviously on the penalty shot, he did enough to get Kovalchuk to outfake himself and then he couldn’t get the shot in the net and then made a big save in the slot.
That’s what we’re hopeful for and it’s great to see him do it.”
Gordon was also pleased to see his team get its first victory of the exhibition season. “It’s a good confidence boost going into the regular season,” he said.
Blake Comeau scored the other Islander goal late in the second period and it proved to be the game winner. Zach Parise scored for New Jersey.
First round pick Nino Niederreiter suffered a bruised leg when he was slashed by Mike Cammalleri in the club’s other split squad exhibition game in Quebec City. Cammalleri was ejected from the game and a suspension is possible. While details were not yet available, Scott Gordon indicated after the game that the injury was not believed to be serious.
Before the game, the Isles announced that they had assigned Robin Figren, Kevin Poulin, Anton Klementyev and Tony Romano to Bridgeport of the AHL. Dustin Kohn was placed on waivers. If he clears waivers, he will also be assigned to the Sound Tigers. The club also released Joel Martin from this tryout.