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Islanders vs. Rangers Gameday: No Nash, But Casey Cizikas Will Do

The NHL buzz last night was Jeff Carter finally getting moved to the Kings for Jack Johnson and a first-round pick, but the other shoe in the form of Rick Nash may yet take a while. The Rangers are apparently hot on Nash's trail -- because Glen Sather and a big contract is like a moth to light (hey, Bob Gainey can always bail him out) -- but that's not something that will be consummated for tonight's game, if ever.

Nyi-yslim_medium Nyr-slim_medium
Islanders (25-27-8, 13th/E) vs. Smurfs (38-15-5, 1st/E)
7 p.m. EST | MSG+2 (
twice the plus!) | Audio: NHL - WRHU
Nassau [
gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Heel-turning on Dubinsky:
Blueshirt Banter

Alas, we'll just have to settle for the anticipated NHL debut of Casey Cizikas, called up yesterday from Bridgeport. Cizikas will become the sixth Islander from the 2009 draft to make his debut, with only collegian Anders Lee yet to appear, and only Anton Klementyev already in the rearview mirror.

Cizikas was part of a flurry of transactions yesterday, with Aaron Ness and Kevin Poulin returning to Bridgeport -- Tim Wallace was picked off by those roster pirates in Tampa Bay -- while Evgeni Nabokov and Travis Hamonic are ready to return.

What a year it's been for Nabokov: From suspended waiver claim to tolled contract to his first win coming against the Rangers to now #1 regular engaged in contract extension discussions.

On TSN's panel of Insiders Who Will Not Sleep This Weekend, Bob McKenzie was asked about the Nabokov situation and said essentially he's someone the goalie-poor Maple Leafs would be interested in -- but the Isles are trying to re-sign him, though nothing is "imminent."

Hamonic's injury, meanwhile, sounded as gruesome as it looked.

Anyway, if Cizikas plays, fans are looking for a veteran to be scratched, but how is Josh Bailey's back after he left midway through the Buffalo game? Either way, there is good reason fans are eager for a look at Cizikas, who has excelled all season long in the AHL.

UPDATE: Newsday's Arthur Staple reports Cizikas will center Brian Rolston and Matt Martin, as Bailey is indeed still out with back spasms.

And all of this talk evades the sad reality that the Rangers are very good right now. It's been over two months since these rivals met, and while the Islanders improved their lot in the interim, the Rangers have inexplicably continued their rise to the top of the Eastern Conference standings and stayed there. They're seven points clear of Boston right now; a loss for tonight would hurt them in pride only.

The Isles? Well there's pride at home of course, and the same drill: A win brings them back to within six points of eighth, but that's still so many points and so many teams away. And the remaining 22 games is almost 50 percent Atlantic opponents.

Hockey Links

Because tonight's game happens to feature the Rangers, "ESPN New York" will take a break from its usual cross-platform promotion to act like it covers the Islanders too.

10,000 Goals in 40 Years

Well, this video montage is just about right (or as edavidmorris said simply: "Chills."). Lots of famous goals and familiar victims:

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's game in this FanShot thread.