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03-17-2007, 09:00 PM
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Avery part of Nolan's comments on Dipietro injury

After turning down interview requests for a few days following a head injury suffered Tuesday night in Montreal, Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro all but admitted the “general body soreness” explanation for his condition is another way of saying minor concussion. DiPietro was uncomfortable because he didn’t want to be in the position of having to issue a series of “no comments” about his status.

“Do you think if I had ‘general body soreness’ I’d be sitting out right now?” DiPietro said at today’s morning skate. “It’s up to the team to tell you.”

Questioned about possible problems with motion, DiPietro said, “You know the answer to that…Do you think I don’t want to play? I want to play, but it’s up to the team.”

Ultimately, DiPietro granted a candid interview that will appear in Sunday’s Newsday in which he discusses his thinking on the play that resulted in his collision with Montreal forward Steve Begin. But tonight, DiPietro will miss his second straight start in favor of backup Mike Dunham against Florida. Coach Ted Nolan indicated hope DiPietro will return Tuesday night at Tampa Bay because there are two days in between to rest and get the practice he would need first.

In Nolan’s view, the injury that put the Islanders’ playoff hopes at risk is as much the fault of Begin as of DiPietro. “He did have a pretty good lane on getting the puck, which he did,” Nolan said of DiPietro. “The player just didn’t jump over him. In this league, you have to do everything in your power to avoid the goaltenders.

“I don’t think [the Rangers’ Sean] Avery listens to that rule. And a couple other players don’t listen to that rule. They bang into goaltenders. [Begin] could have jumped. He’s a seasoned veteran. He’s a fourth-line guy.

“He knew exactly what he was doing: ‘By hitting this goaltender, maybe I can knock him out, and we can get a chance to play in the playoffs.’ It’s one of those things.”

Montreal now is two points out of a playoff spot, while the Rangers and Toronto are one point behind the seventh-place Isles and Carolina for the final berths. Nolan acknowledged DiPietro put himself at risk of an injury when he made the decision to go out almost to his blue line to stop a possible breakaway by Begin, but the coach said he has no intention of telling DiPietro to alter his gambling style.

“Goaltenders do that once in a while,” Nolan said. “If I get in a car accident, maybe I shouldn’t have driven to work that day.”

In other words, it’s the chance you take by playing the game. The problem is that the fallout from an injury to a player as valuable as DiPietro could be enormous. Nolan said there’s “no question” one of the main reasons the Islanders were willing to give up former first-round picks Robert Nilsson and Ryan O’Marra to get veteran forward Ryan Smyth from Edmonton was because management believed DiPietro was playing well enough to carry the Islanders deep into the playoffs if they could just add a little offense.

If DiPietro’s injury lingers and the Islanders don’t make the playoffs and, worse, don’t sign Smyth before he becomes a free agent on July 1, well, it won’t look good at all. The Islanders did almost everything right to position themselves for a playoff push, but now they stand to lose big if DiPietro’s not in goal.

“You can’t control certain things,” Nolan said. Likening the situation to Chris Simon’s suspension and defenseman Radek Martinek’s season-ending broken leg, the coach added, “You can’t control Ricky going down or the unfortunate situation that happened with Simon. Those two things happened. We forget about Martinek being hurt. We lost three of our original six defensemen to start the season off [Martinek to injury, Alexei Zhitnik in a trade and injured Bruno Gervais]. Those aren’t excuses. Those things happen.

“We can’t sit down and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to rebound and get better performances from certain people. If we do that, it has nothing to do with Ryan Smyth, it has nothing to do with Ricky DiPietro being out. It has to do with us playing this game right now.”

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