Isles' Cizikas makes NHL debut

Islanders' Casey Cizikas skates against the Rangers at

Islanders' Casey Cizikas skates against the Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum. (Feb. 24, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Casey Cizikas' stomach was churning on his drive down to Long Island on Thursday, but not because of the flu bug that's been going around. The 21-year-old was on his way from Bridgeport to make his NHL debut Friday night.

"What a way to make my debut, against the Rangers," Cizikas said Friday morning. "I don't think anything can prepare you for this."

Maybe so, but Cizikas earned his call-up by playing exceptionally sound, consistent hockey for the Sound Tigers in his first pro season. The 2009 fourth-round pick leads Bridgeport with 44 points and a plus-25 rating and has been a major reason why the Sound Tigers went into their Friday night game on a 16-1-0-1 run.

"I'm a lot more consistent this year. Growing up, I'd take nights off," he said. "Down in Bridgeport, we can't afford to do that."

Cizikas took Josh Bailey's spot between Brian Rolston and Matt Martin with Bailey sidelined by back spasms. The rookie's assignment was just to play the way he has all season.

"I know I'm not the prettiest player out there," Cizikas said. "My job is just to crash and bang."

Bailey's back still badBailey said he took a cross-check to his lower back Feb. 16 in St. Louis and the pain had progressively worsened, causing him finally to miss the third period of Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo. He hasn't skated since.

"When it's bothering you so much you can't do the things you need to do to be successful, then it's time to step away," Bailey said.

Hamonic adjusted to cageTravis Hamonic's return after missing nine games because of a broken nose that required surgery came with a full metal cage mask.

"Unfortunately, I've had some experience with it," he said, referring to when he suffered a broken jaw as a junior player. "It doesn't bother me a bit."

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