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In the moment before Pittsburgh backup netminder Brent Johnson unloaded a bomb of a left punch, it actually appeared as though Rick DiPietro was grinning.
It appeared as though the Islanders goaltender was enjoying his little skirmish with his counterpart, like it was all a big joke.
Or maybe it was a wry kind of grin, like, "OK, what can possibly happen next?"
Johnson dropped DiPietro with one devastating left after DiPietro had gone after Matt Cooke in the final seconds of yet another Islanders loss Wednesday night. On Friday, the team announced DiPietro is gone for 4-6 weeks with facial fractures and swelling in his knees. The facial fractures were the direct result of Johnson's punch; the knee issues are just part of DiPietro's history.
"You don't really ever want a broken face to get extra rest," DiPietro told reporters Friday. "But you keep telling yourself everything happens for a reason. I'm not sure what that reason is yet, but hopefully, at some point, it'll come to the surface and make when we win the Stanley Cup that much sweeter."
Did he actually say "when we win the Stanley Cup?" Yes.
We admit the whole DiPietro drama has been more than a little hard to swallow, but you've got to love the man's chutzpah.
From the moment franchise-killer Mike Milbury traded away Roberto Luongo in order to draft the brash collegiate star with the first overall pick in 2000, to the moment DiPietro was awarded his peculiar 15-year contract by bizzaro owner Charles Wang before the start of the 2006-07 season, to his litany of injuries and uneven play, there have been plenty of moments to revel in the absurdity of it all.
But now this?
Despite the myriad jokes at DiPietro's expense that exploded around the hockey world and beyond (Friday's injury news was trending on Twitter.com), we can't even find it within ourselves to even chuckle as the stars again align to humiliate DiPietro and the Islanders.
In the same way we always wished Charlie Brown would just once make good on a kick without Lucy pulling the ball away, or that Wile E. Coyote would just once make a snack out of Road Runner, we wonder if we will ever see DiPietro do anything other than explain some sort of misfortune and the Islanders do anything but become the butt of cruel jokes?
"At this point, whatever bad just seems to happen, not just to myself, to the entire team," the 29-year-old said.
Yes, DiPietro will be well paid as he again heads to the disabled list, and goodness knows there are a lot of people who have it far worse than him. Still, this is a man who has played in just 34 NHL games since the end of the 2008 season. He's played 10 NHL playoff games in total (none since 2007) and has won just twice in the postseason.
Maybe he returns this season, maybe not; maybe the Islanders turn it around next season, but their history suggests they are unlikely to.
Instead, the legacy of a former No. 1 draft pick becomes a foolish grin followed by the big left coming out of nowhere to put out the lights.
Surely, even DiPietro and the Islanders deserve more than that, don't they?