Isles go with backup plan

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Maple Leafs have beaten many of the best goalies in the game to stay alive this long -- Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller and Ray Emery -- only to face possible elimination by Wade Dubielewicz?

"If I had a buck for every time they announce my name wrong, I'd be rich," Dubielewicz laughed.

But Toronto shouldn't guffaw, because such unknown Islanders have a way of grating on them. Remember Steve Webb in the '02 playoffs? And this season's unlikely shootout hero Frans Nielsen?

Sans equipment, the bald, 5-foot-10 Dubielewicz looks like he should be behind the wheel of a delivery truck, not between the pipes in the NHL. But he's the idol of the Island heading into tonight's match where the loser likely goes golfing.

"No, he doesn't look like a goalie," remarked teammate Brendan Witt.

A few days ago, the knock was that general manager Garth Snow didn't adequately replace himself as back-up goalie when Rick DiPietro was sidelined with what's likely a season-ending concussion. Dubielewicz was summoned for the third time this season from Bridgeport of the AHL, mopped up for Mike Dunham in losses to New Jersey and Buffalo and gave up five goals in a full game to Ottawa.

But with the Isles' season on the line Tuesday and the Coliseum half-filled with Rangers fans expecting to clinch a playoff spot, he made 36 often unorthodox saves, then foiled Martin Straka, Brendan Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr in the shootout. Perhaps his anonimity is what confused the trio of snipers.

"I'm definitely an unknown, an undrafted free agent who played college hockey," Dubielewicz said.

The B.C. native has now played all or part of 14 NHL games since the Isles snagged him out of the University of Denver in 2003.

"He flops around out there and maybe doesn't look the part," coach Ted Nolan said. "But he has a determination and competitiveness that people don't see."

He'll need all that tonight against the Leafs.

"We're two teams not in the playoffs, in the fight of our lives," Witt said.


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