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Friday, October 20, 2006
Updated: October 21, 10:02 PM ET
Isles goalie DiPietro returns from injury vs. Canes

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Rick DiPietro is eager to earn that fat contract.

Rick DiPietro
DiPietro

The New York Islanders goaltender returned to the ice on Saturday after missing the past four games with a groin strain.

DiPietro, who signed a 15-year, $67.5 million extension before the season began, practiced on Friday and started against the defending champion Carolina Hurricanes at Nassau Coliseum.

"I'm just excited to get back," DiPietro told Newsday on Friday. "I've done all the treatment necessary to feel good on the ice. The question before the Pittsburgh game [Thursday] was whether I was game-ready. It wasn't a pain issue. It was more getting back in the swing of things.

DiPietro made 23 saves and allowed no goals through two periods against Carolina.

"Dunny [backup goaltender Mike Dunham] has done a fantastic job holding down the fort, but I feel like I need to get back in there and do whatever I can to help out and win some games," he said.

DiPietro struggled to start the season, but the groin injury may have had more to do with that than the pressure of the big contract. Nonetheless, pressure will now be the 25-year-old's constant companion.

"You have to be immune to it or develop a tough skin," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "If you play well, they're going to name bridges after you. But if you don't play well, they're going to throw you off them. We have to accept the territory where we're at."

DiPietro is ready for the voice of the crowd.

"We have great fans, passionate fans," DiPietro told the paper. "You watch the Mets and see the looks on people's faces in the crowd when they went down 3-1 [Thursday]. These people live and die by their teams, and we appreciate it. The biggest thing is to work hard every night and prove to them that, win or lose, we're trying our hardest. As New Yorkers, I think they respect that."