As the season’s post-All-Star schedule has gotten busy enough to make interim head coach Doug Weight call it “ridiculous,” the New York Islanders have suffered their share of injuries — both formally announced lower/upper body injuries as well as the indeterminate number of players playing while “banged up.”
The declared injuries have made lineup decisions fairly easy: Johnny Boychuk has been out since the bulk of the Islanders’ recent nine-game road trip, leaving a simple decision between callups Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield on defense.
Casey Cizikas, Shane Prince and Cal Clutterbuck have all spent significant time on the shelf, while spot injuries to Alan Quine and Brock Nelson have made room for Joshua Ho-Sang’s hot start to his NHL career, with veteran callups Stephen Gionta and even Bracken Kearns seeing time.
But real decisions are getting closer.
The Islanders activated Casey Cizikas from injured reserve on Friday, likely ending a spell of 11 games missed since Feb. 21. Expect him to play Saturday against Columbus, a tough divisional opponent with a deep set of forward lines.
According to Weight, via the official site:
"I feel good about it, he's pretty much ready to go," Weight said. "I'd expect him to be in [against the Blue Jackets]."
In Cizikas’ absence, Nelson, Ryan Strome and Quine have all seen time at center, though the natural centers have spent considerable time on the wing in their Islanders careers.
Also getting time at center was rookie Anthony Beauvillier, who was scratched last game, but whom Weight has liked at center.
Cizikas’ return almost certainly recomposes the fourth line of him, Clutterbuck and Nikolay Kulemin. The top line with Anders Lee, John Tavares and Josh Bailey has long remained unchanged.
That should mean new decisions are in store. Cizikas has been out of the lineup since before Ho-Sang’s callup. Veteran wingers Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera aren’t coming out.
Even assuming Cizikas’ return bumps Gionta from the lineup, that leaves the on-going decision of Nelson vs. Beauvillier or Quine, who only just returned after a brief injury.
Barring other “banged up” rests, Saturday’s decisions may look like this:
Lee - Tavares - Bailey
Ladd - Strome/Nelson(?) - Ho-Sang
Nelson/Beauvillier/Quine - Chimera
Kulemin - Cizikas - Clutterbuck
Scratches: Gionta, one more