1:45 PM - A couple of corrections.
First, I was off on thinking DiPietro would start tonight. Montoya gets the start tonight which means DiPietro is likely for tomorrow against the Panthers.
Which brings me to my next point. I'm jumping the gun on who the Isles play next. They go to Florida, not Tampa. Tampa comes next week. My apologies. Still, the point was you want to ice the strongest line-up against a stronger team, and that should mean Montoya in net for that one.
9:30 AM - There are some times where being proven wrong doesn't hurt a lot. This is one of those times.
The Islanders activated Rick DiPietro off of IR on Wednesday. Back in early February when he got hurt, I said that I expected him to be out for the entire season.
But the swelling has gone down for now, and DiPietro's comeback continues.
There comes a point in time when a comeback is no longer considered one. Believe it or not, we haven't yet reached that point. In all honesty, and I know some of you will hate to hear this, we are still in the early stages of this attempted comeback.
If you expected DiPietro to get into 40, 45 or even 50 games this year, then I'll tip my hat to you. There weren't many out there, and neither Sean nor myself were among those.
The reality of the situation is that going into this season, DiPietro felt the best he had in a number of years. He started out a bit slow, but was steadily getting better until the time of his injuries. I won't call them a setback, but rather on par for what I expected out of DiPietro this season.
I wanted to see if he could get through 25-30 games. Depending on how many starts he gets in these last 11 games, he realistically could hit that mark. But that would only be step one.
Step two would have been completing a season relatively pain free in getting to that number. Then in the offseason, evaluate where he is and give it a go again next season.
Right or wrong, this wasn't going to be a one year thing. DiPietro wasn't going to magically get his touch back and be at the top of his game after all that missed time. This is going to be a while. At this point, as cruel as it may seem the fans have to accept the fact that his contract is immovable, and his will to play the game has not wavered. As long as those two items remain constant, then there is no reason to think that his time is almost done. DiPietro will be attempting to play so long as he physically can. There is not going to be anyone who can tell him otherwise, not even a doctor.
If he heals the right way, and takes a very slow approach to all of this he can be pain free. For that reason, no doctor will tell him he can't do it anymore - they would be lying at this point in time.
So DiPietro returns and Nathan Lawson goes back to Bridgeport. If Al Montoya can keep up his play and continue the way he has, then we'll have a very capable goalie for the remaining games should anything bad happen with DiPietro.
NESS SIGNS: As I mentioned in the last post, as was speculated, Aaron Ness has decided to forego his senior season at the University of Minnesota and signed his entry level deal with the Islanders.
Ness was taken in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. Despite his size, various scouting reports had him going anywhere from the late 1st to the middle of the 2nd round. He has loads of offensive skill, but unfortunately didn't get a chance to show that off while at the struggling program in Minnesota.
Leaving college early is something that has always plagued the NCAA, but more so now - especially at Minnesota.
Perhaps it's because of the way the NHL is going, and with many teams right at the cap ceiling looking for cheaper talent. The league is relying more and more on special teams, speed and skating, and Ness can do well with those three items. So while the size may be an issue for him right now, within the next year or so as he fills up even more, he can be passable and certainly on par for many others in the NHL.
The program at Minnesota, meanwhile continues to flounder. As of September, a grand total of 15 players left the program since the 2005-2006 season, and a total of 31 in head coach Don Lucia's tenure there (beginning in 1999-2000). Since 2007, Minnesota is 70-59-24 with one playoff appearance. As years go on here, we see why Kyle Okposo was in favor of leaving the program. He's is obviously not alone when you see the staggering amount that have left in the past four years.
Ness will report to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on a ATO for now, and his entry level deal won't kick in until next season. So he'll get to strut his stuff for the next few weeks to give the organization a taste of what they have and where they can go from there.
Ness will make his debut Friday.
ISLES IN CAROLINA: The Islanders go to Raleigh tonight to take on the Carolina Hurricanes, who don't have much room for error. They currently sit two points behind the Rangers for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. They have a very strong team that has had some inconsistency issues this season. Their offence is very good, with Eric Staal leading the way and rookie of the year candidate Jeff Skinner having the unlikely all-star season he has had. Cory Stillman has been a very good deadline pick-up for the Canes, as he has six points in 10 games.
The Islanders wouldn't say if DiPietro or Montoya would be starting, but coach Jack Capuano hinted that just because DiPietro is returning doesn't mean he'll play right away.
I'll say theres a good chance that DiPietro gets one of these back-to-back games. I hate making these kinds of predictions, but perhaps the Isles will want to save Montoya for Dwayne Roloson and the Lightning. They will want a strong performance for that game for obvious reasons. We'll just have to wait and see until we get reports from the Isles morning skate in Carolina.