Goaltender Rick DiPietro, who on Wednesday underwent hip surgery for the second time in two years, might have to yield to the judgment of his elders regarding his playing time next season.
DiPietro, just 26 years old and two years into a record 15-year deal as the New York Islanders' franchise goalie, has handled most of the workload the past two seasons.
A physical goalie who takes pride in handling the puck, he has endured other recent injuries, including a sprained knee and a concussion, that make Islanders management nervous.
DiPietro played in 63 of 73 Islanders games this season. Of the 10 he missed, four were planned, three were for his grandmother's funeral, and three were for the sprained knee, suffered in December.
"That's our responsibility as an organization, to make sure we don't put people in that position, as much as you'd love him to play [all] 82 games," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said in the New York Daily News. "It's just not humanly possible to play that many games in the modern-day era. Going into next season we definitely have to have a plan on how many games he'll play. If he wants to play 82, we might have to tell him 81. We have to monitor his playing time, for sure."
The right hip that Dr. Marc Philippon operated on in Denver on Wednesday was initially injured in late January during the All-Star Game skills competition. He did not let on that he was bothered by the injury, and the notoriously hard-headed player did not let on that he might be feeling hip pain after the All-Star break.
After the break, DiPietro's performance dropped noticeably, going 7-12 with a 3.38 GAA.
"Maybe the hip thing affected him a little bit more than we thought," Nolan said to Newsday after practice Wednesday. "We don't know exactly when it happened. Ricky probably hid it from us for a while, but then, it comes to a point where you have to get it fixed.
"I wasn't aware 100 percent, but you knew there was a little bit of a problem. A couple of our players right now are playing a little bit banged up. You don't know the extent of it until it gets to a point where it did with Ricky that we couldn't not say he was hurt."
Philippon also was the surgeon who operated on DiPietro's torn left hip last offseason, and DiPietro was recovered in time for training camp in September. Nolan said that in terms of overall conditioning, DiPietro was more than fit, but the team likely would have to monitor his playing time in the future.
"There are no more hips to fix, so maybe Ricky can play 82. He's got both hips fixed, so he's a bionic man," Nolan said, jokingly, according to the Daily News. "He wanted to play all the time. That's Ricky's mentality. But once in awhile your body tells you, you can't do it. We'll get this thing done and he'll be full force and ready for next season."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.