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Bits: Considering Islanders Tryouts Staios, Pandolfo ... DiPietro?

I would not want the sailor on Al Montoya's mask to date my sister.
I would not want the sailor on Al Montoya's mask to date my sister.

NHL preseason sure makes for a maddening evaluative exercise. Established stars are just getting their legs, teams are using mixed lineups of regulars, tryouts and AHLers depending on whether they're home or away -- anything you can learn about any of the above is restricted by the small sample and odd setting.

That makes looking at tryouts like Steve Staios and Jay Pandolfo a challenge for Jack Capuano and Garth Snow.

Neither player is a spring chicken and neither was impressive in his last NHL stop -- but both have battled injuries that, if overcome, could theoretically allow them to recapture their better days. Theoretically.

Worse, as seasoned NHL vets coming in fresh and (presumably) 100% healthy you know they know the right buttons to press to have an good camp and make a good sales pitch. A youngster comes in nervous but with the knowledge his time isn't expected to come now. A veteran comes in with a clarity of focus and, in Staios and Pandolfo's cases, the knowledge that falling short probably means the end.

For Capuano, all he can hope for is they put their best, but realistic, foot forward toward the effort:

"As a coach, you’re always looking at individuals," Capuano said. "Like I told the guys, they have to evaluate themselves. Obviously there is a foundation in the game plan in place, so for us, we’re still looking at our systems, we’re still looking at our structure, but I’m hoping some of the guys that are pushing for spots on this team can elevate their game and their pace where it needs to be."

The red flag here of course is age. Pandolfo is 36 (37 in December). Staios is 38.

Those aren't good betting ages. But at veteran I-need-a-job prices, you could see why a team might go there in a pinch. Those pinches have yet to develop, but we still have three preseason games and two weeks for injuries and disappointments to develop and create an opening.

In thinking of this process i was reminded how Rick DiPietro is in a similar boat. The contract and respect he has from the organization means this isn't make-or-break territory just yet. But in one way he is in a similar situation: Injuries have sabotaged his recent record in the NHL, and it's still quite unclear whether his body will let him capture his old form. And even if it does during this camp, well ... the sample size will remain small. His stats last year were of a guy who was worse at playing goalie than Staios or Pandolfo were at playing their positions in their last stops.

In the evaluative context, how to read DiPietro's camp is as risky as any read on the two veterans who are six to eight years his senior.

(Heck, on that note, Al Montoya's very impressive performance last year was still only about a quarter-season's worth, meaning he's "trying out" still, too.)

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