The New York Islanders need a healthy Rick DiPietro to have any chance at reaching the playoffs this season. The All-Star goaltender, however, is likely to be on the bench again in his team’s home opener.
DiPietro is by far the Islanders’ most important player, providing strong goaltending for a team that has little firepower and is expected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference again this season.
Injuries, though, have become a concern for DiPietro, who at 26 has already had surgery on both hips - one during this offseason - and a knee operation. He was limited to one preseason appearance - a 6-0 loss at Florida on Monday - and sat out Friday’s season-opening 2-1 loss at New Jersey.
MacDonald had a strong 27-save performance in place of DiPietro while Doug Weight scored in his Islanders debut.
Gordon said the team was just being careful with its franchise goalie.
“If we were to lose the first three games of the year and he is better for it, then we are a better team for it,” said Gordon, who replaced Ted Nolan behind the bench.
The Islanders look to win their fifth straight home opener on Saturday.
“This is a process and we’re going to get better every game,” Weight told the Islanders’ official Web site. “Tomorrow night we’re right back at it. There are 81 left and we plan on making some noise.”
Weight and fellow newcomer Mark Streit, who had an assist Friday, are being counted on to bolster an offense that scored an Eastern Conference-low 194 goals last season. Weight, however, only had 25 points in 67 games last season with St. Louis and Anaheim.
The Islanders need youngsters Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Jeff Tambellini to contribute offensively if they are to surpass expectations. Okposo failed to convert a penalty shot on Friday while Nielsen and Tambellini didn’t register a shot on goal.
The Blues started their season with a 5-2 victory over visiting Nashville on Friday as Keith Tkachuk scored two of his team’s four power-play goals.
An effective power play was a good sign for St. Louis, which was last in the NHL last season with a 14.1 percent success rate with the man advantage.
“We’ve been kind of touted as a bottom-five team,” forward David Backes said. “It’s a new year, it’s a new team, it’s a new season.”
The Blues, who are using five forwards on the power play after defenseman Erik Johnson’s season-ending knee injury before training camp, scored four with the man advantage for the first time since Jan. 1, 2004.
“It’s an experiment and it’s working right now,” Tkachuk said. “We’re getting more shots, that’s the key. Special teams win you games.”
Backup goalie Chris Mason is expected to make his Blues debut Saturday after Manny Legace stopped 20 shots against the Predators. Mason, who spent his first six seasons with Nashville, has never faced the Islanders.
Tkachuk has goals in three straight games against New York, totaling nine goals and 11 assists in 20 career contests.
St. Louis has won its last three visits to Long Island, last losing there on Feb. 5, 2002.