UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Wade Dubielewicz earned a second straight start in goal for the New York Islanders on Thursday night, getting the nod over Rick DiPietro in the second half of a home-and-home series against the New York Rangers.
In a surprising move, Islanders coach Ted Nolan passed over DiPietro, the franchise goalie with 13-plus seasons left on a landmark 15-year contract, in favour of Dubielewicz - the owner of 13 wins in 29 career NHL games.
DiPietro sat out the previous two games, including the Islanders' 4-3 shootout victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, following the death of his grandmother. DiPietro played in the Islanders' loss to Philadelphia on Saturday before leaving the team and going to Massachusetts for the wake and funeral.
Dubielewicz (6-5-0) stopped 29 shots in a 1-0 loss to Florida on Sunday and made 27 saves against the Rangers. He then allowed only one goal in six shootout attempts to earn that win and improve to 4-0 in his career in the tiebreaker.
"The game against Florida, he stood tall for us, and he doesn't seem to be rattled in there in pressure situations," Nolan said Thursday morning. "He goes right into Madison Square Garden, and especially with all the shooters against him in the shootout, it didn't seem to faze him. He just wants to play, and he played great."
DiPietro (26-24-7) expected to return to the team and play Tuesday against the Rangers, but was convinced by Islanders general manager Garth Snow to take another day with his family.
Reluctantly, he did, and was back on the ice Wednesday for practice.
Nolan hinted after Tuesday's victory that there was a good chance he would use Dubielewicz in goal for the Rangers rematch.
DiPietro got the feeling Wednesday, after doing extra work in practice, that Dubielewicz would play. He held that opinion Thursday and stayed on the ice following the morning skate a little longer, typical of a goalie who wouldn't be starting that night.
"I was told I wasn't playing," DiPietro said. "At the end of the day, that's a coach's decision. Dubie played well the last game and got us that win in the shootout. It was unfortunate I was away a couple of days and missed time."
Nolan said the decision would be made at game time, but DiPietro let the news out early.
"Ricky has to concentrate on being a goaltender and we'll concentrate on coaching the team," he said. "We're in the business of winning games, so you've got to go with the hot goaltender - if that's the case - or you come back with our No. 1 guy. Either way it's a tough decision."
Dubielewicz seemed surprised Wednesday when it was suggested he might get a second straight start against the Rangers.
Nolan told him after the skate ended Thursday morning to be ready. Playing the Rangers just two days earlier and once last season - another shootout win - certainly helped.
"When a team has an identity, and when you kind of figure out that identity, you kind of know what to prepare for," Dubielewicz said. "That was pretty much the case. You know what the Rangers bring and I was ready."