Isles Goalie Receives 1st All-Star Nod
Come January 27 in Atlanta at the annual NHL All-Star Game, there will be two out of the three local area goaltenders representing the Eastern Conference. Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils will be the starter, and one of the back-ups will not be Henrik Lundqvist, but Rick DiPietro.
DP was sort of a surprise over the Blueshirts' backstop known as 'The King,' who was second in the fan voting behind Brodeur (Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers was also named as a back-up). Their stats are fairly close, with DiPietro holding a 17-14 record and 2.56 GGA, while Lundqvist has an 18-16 mark with a 2.27 GGA. The Islanders are two points ahead of the Rangers (47 to 45), and both teams are struggling, holding up the bottom of the division.
The league will not be disappointed with DiPietro's selection, who has had other accolades such as being the overall number one selection in the 2000 NHL Draft and being selected in 2006 to the US Olympic hockey team. Coming off a 32-win season a year ago, he has earned the right to be an All-Star. He led the Islanders to a playoff berth then, and the team currently holds on to the eighth and final seed.
DiPietro's contributions have not gone unnoticed by his head coach. "I don't know anybody else more deserving," Ted Nolan told reporters. "We wouldn't be in [the] position we're in right now if it wasn't for the play of Ricky. Now the rest of the hockey world will see how important he is to our club and how talented he really is."
Some of that talent will be showcased in the extra skills competitions added this season by the NHL, which includes a goalie scoring contest. DiPietro seemed overjoyed about not only being named to the team, but to also have the opportunity to show what he can do in the festivities before the actual game.
"It's kind of like being a kid again," he said to reporters. "You get a chance to meet all these great players. Being in the skills competition is going to be a great time."
DiPietro, the first Islander goalie since "Battlin'" Billy Smith in 1978, will be joined on the Eastern Conference roster by some of the big names in the game, such as Sydney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta), Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay), Alex Ovechkin (Washington), and Scott Gomez (Rangers), who leads the Blueshirts in scoring and will be making his second All-Star appearance.
The Western Conference is loaded, as well, with Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit), Jerome Iginla (Calgary), Joe Thornton (San Jose), and Chris Pronger (Anaheim). In the nets, Manny Legace (St. Louis) will start and give way to Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose) and former Islander Chris Osgood (Detroit).
A year ago, the Western Conference defeated the Eastern, 12-9. There were no games held in 2005 (strike) and 2006 (Olympics). The NHL has gone back to the normal type of game after holding a North America versus World game from 1998 to 2002.