March 1, 2002
ATLANTA -- Rick DiPietro reads the papers because he likes to keep up
on hockey news and happenings from the rest of the sports world. On
occasion, he has seen his name linked to trade rumors. The most
recent, and most ridiculous, had him coming to the Thrashers for a
handful of nothing in return.
Still, DiPietro had concerns. That's when roving Islanders goalie
coach Billy Smith had a word with him.
"I kept telling him, 'I didn't hear anything from management,' "
Smith said. "And, anyway, I told him, at least it means someone wants
DiPietro started slowly in first season with the Islanders' AHL
Bridgeport farm team, but has played well over the latter half of the
season. Smith has spent most of his time working with the 20-year-
old, who was the first pick overall in the 2000 draft, and raved
about his progress. "He's definitely an NHL goalie," Smith said.
But for the next week, DiPietro will be on his own because Smith was
summoned to the parent club to monitor goalies Chris Osgood and Garth
Snow. Smith will be with the Islanders until March 8 and return in
April for what is anticipated to be a playoff run.
As far as Smith is concerned, the Islanders are in an enviable
position, with two quality veteran goalies, a promising youngster
honing his skills in the minor leagues, and another prospect at the
junior level -- Andy Chiodo, who was named goalie of the month for
February in the Ontario Hockey League.
In acknowledging the depth, Smith recognized that assets are
accumulated both for development and for trading. "That's not my
job," Smith said. "I'm glad I don't have to make those decisions."