In their desire to bring a more consistent performance in these crucial last 12 games, the Islanders might benefit from the return of one of their most consistent performers.
Casey Cizikas, out the past 11 games with a suspected broken hand, pronounced himself ready to go for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Blue Jackets at Barclays Center. Cizikas may have only seven goals and 23 points this season, but his reliability as one of Doug Weight’s most trusted centers has been missing.
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After an 11-4-2 stretch before Cizikas’ injury in Detroit on Feb. 21, the Isles went 5-5-1 without him.
“I’d expect him to be in,” Weight said of Cizikas, who has been skating regularly on his own with the team on the road and was a full participant in Friday’s practice. “I think we’re getting healthier.”
Cizikas could give the Islanders a much-needed jolt after too many low-energy stretches killed the team in a 4-2 loss to the Jets at Barclays Center on Thursday. In their ninth game in 15 days, the Isles looked worn down and surrendered too many golden scoring chances while chasing Jets players through much of the first two periods.
Weight was relieved to have a practice day Friday, only the team’s fourth in the past month. “The fact is that it doesn’t take a long time to reboot,” he said. “We’ve been in our houses now for three days. I expect a really energetic effort, a red-eye effort. I think we’ll be crazed dogs out there . . . We had to go on the ice today and wrap our heads around a couple things in our structure.”
But even with losses in three of the last four games and the Isles entering Saturday’s matinee a point behind the Maple Leafs (who have a game in hand) and tied with the Lightning, Weight is optimistic.
“It’s like a bike race. There were seven teams a week ago, now there’s three. We’re in the separation group,” he said. “Just [try to stay] even keel. I know the world is ending here when you lose, but you go home, you wake up and we’re one point out, same place we’ve been for the last two weeks . . . We’re in a really good spot and we just have to get some consistency back.”
Notes & quotes: Johnny Boychuk (ankle) remained off the ice and will miss his seventh straight game . . . Thomas Greiss will get the call in goal, his 12th start in the last 13 games and his 13th consecutive appearance. The Islanders will not play again until they face the Rangers at the Garden on Wednesday, so any decision on recalling Jaroslav Halak likely will be made during that break.