As far as Yann Danis is concerned, the calendar year 2009 can take its time. His first child, a son named Jayden, was recently born. Jayden's dad has just as recently established himself as a National Hockey League goaltender. And to top it all off, a new Islanders contract appears to be in his future.
"2009 has been very good to me," Danis said after practice today. "I tell everyone that Jayden has been my lucky charm."
In so many ways, this season has worked out even better than the former Montreal Canadiens prospect had planned. When the Islanders were the first team to call him last July 1, he was flattered. Just as crucially, Danis knew that the uncertainty of Rick DiPietro's availability at the start meant there was a good chance the Islanders might utilize their third goaltender.
A one-year contract was signed, while Danis hoped he would get about 10 games of NHL action. In five years in the Canadiens system, the goalie only played six games.
"I always knew I was capable of playing at this level," Danis said. "I was just looking for a chance."
With 10 games remaining in the Islanders' schedule, Danis has already played 24. He could get to 30 by the end of year. He is 9-12-2 with a 2.51 GAA and a .921 save percentage. He has proven, at the very least, that he is an NHL backup - and maybe something more.
"What's impressed me about Yann is just how solid, how reliable he has been," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said today. "He hasn't had to be that 40, 50-save guy the last several weeks. He has developed a level of consistency. There isn't any panic. Now he knows in his mind that he can do it. His numbers look good, and he's kept our team in every game he's played."
The 27-year old Danis, who played four years at Brown University, said the key to his consistency was a stretch in January in which he started eight consecutive games. "That made me feel comfortable and gave me confidence," he said.
Danis also cited the tutelage of goalie coach Mike Dunham and consultant Sudarshan Maharaj. "Sudsie brought me to Toronto for a full week before training camp, which was a big boost for me," said Danis. "He is outstanding with technique. Dunny knows the league as well as any goalie coach and knows what it takes to play and to stay at this level. They're a perfect complement to each other because they bring so much to the table in different areas."
The next step for Danis is a new Islanders contract. A one-way deal - as opposed to this season's NHL-AHL model - is a no-brainer. A one-year deal at around $700,000 seems logical and fair. For starters, Danis would be locked into his first full-time NHL job. If DiPietro is not ready for 60 games and Danis carries the Islanders for a long stretch and when the playoffs are on the line, the Quebec native would have a strong case for No. 1 goalie money next summer.
In the Islanders locker room at Iceworks this afternoon, Danis said contract negotiations are not his focus.
"There hasn't been much serious talk about a deal from either side yet," he said. "My preference is to just concentrate on finishing this season strong and see what happens. I'd definitely love to come back. The Islanders gave me my first real chance in the NHL and we're growing as a team. The business stuff will work itself out."
The lineup at today's 75-minute practice at Iceworks:
Tambellini - Nielsen - Okposo
Comeau - Bailey - Park
Hilbert - Thompson - Jackman
Doug Weight, hoping to be back in the lineup by the start of April, took the full practice in a jersey color of his own. Sean Bergenheim particpated in a few drills, but will not play Wednesday. Dean McAmmond was rewarded for his leadership and play with extra family time in Ottawa. Mike Iggulden and Joel Rechlicz are back with the Sound Tigers, who host Worcester tomorrow night.
On D: there was Witt, Martinek, Gervais, Hillen and Pock. Andy Sutton skated. Gordon said he is waiting for a green light for Sutton from the team's medical staff. Mark Streit, getting plenty of rest on non-game days from the coaching staff recently, participated in half the practice.
In goal, Joey MacDonald was cleared to play and practiced today. He could get a start this week. Peter Mannino is with the Sound Tigers, leading them to victory yesterday over Portland.
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