Casey Cizikas Removes One Key Injury for Bridgeport

Only a certain kind of player can produce a "The Shift." - Claus Andersen

With Bridgeport's strong start to 2012-13, it's easy to forget they've been without three key players.

Nothing is certain in life except taxes and NHL lockouts. (Death, it appears, is no longer guaranteed. At least if you can transform yourself back into a polyp.)

One more certainty: injuries.

They happen every year, they derail the most promising of seasons, and their random absence helps stacked teams like the L.A. Kings charge to the Stanley Cup.

The New York Islanders organization has not been spared this fate over the last several seasons, and it's complicated what has already been an uphill slog at the NHL and AHL levels most years.

Which brings us to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Casey Cizikas' impending return. Hopefully it gives the team a boost, as it's certainly an infusion of talent.

Bridgeport started 10-4, but the last three games raise some concern. Typically a three-game losing streak can be a blip on the radar, a dose of small sample, but the number of goals conceded -- 18 in three games -- bears watching.

Cizikas is a strong two-way player, and part of that identity is the sort of full-effort work ethic that typifies a commitment to defensive responsibilities. Lead by example and all that. (It's cliche, but it's true. One thing evident at every level and age of hockey: Finding energy for the offensive chance is easier than finding it for the backcheck.)

Anyway, Cizikas' return is also a reminder that the Sound Tigers' start has come largely without the contributions of three key players. Calvin de Haan* was lost for the season after only three games. Kirill Kabanov made it through part of a fourth before a deep skate cut that should keep him out for a while yet. Cizikas has at least played 11 of the 17 so far.

The Sound Tigers haven't exactly lacked at center, with young Brock Nelson and Johan Sundstrom both impressing. Even Jason Clark, eased into the pros slowly, picked up a couple of worthy assists over the weekend. But Cizikas provides options. Depth down the middle and on special teams is always welcome.

Cizikas was the team's top forward last year and a candidate for the NHL roster this year if the league, in its infinite wisdom, saw a need for NHL rosters. Assuming he's close to full form when he returns, Cizikas should be a top forward for the Sound Tigers once again.

*Team update: One of the replacements for de Haan, Jordan Hill was brought in on a PTO in late October and has now signed a full one-year deal. The Sound Tigers play three this weekend, with the final two at home: Military night Saturday. Teddy bears Sunday.

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