Niederreiter learning on the job
GalleriesIslanders goalies since Billy Smith
The first half of Nino Niederreiter's rookie season has been fairly forgettable. He missed the first month of the season with a groin injury, was a healthy scratch for a week after he returned and then missed another five games with a concussion.
Those are serious developmental setbacks for a 19-year-old, even one as talented as Niederreiter. He's played no more than 14 minutes in any game this season and is learning a two-way game on the fourth line, though his confidence has been rising -- enough that Jack Capuano used him on the power play Saturday against the Hurricanes.
"I kind of feel like now I know what I've got to do on the ice," said Niederreiter, who came into last night's game with one goal, no assists and a minus-16 rating in 24 games. "I still have a long way to go, but I feel a little more sure of myself."
That translates to a part of the game Niederreiter loves: camping in front of the opposing goal and causing trouble. He got a few extra shoves from Carolina defensemen and mixed it up a couple times Tuesday night with the physical Leafs, leveling Mikhail Grabovski and then Jake Gardiner on a second-period shift.
"I think maybe some veteran guys feel like I shouldn't be there, that I'm still a rookie and I should know my place," he said. "That makes me want to be there even more and get under guys' skin."
Staios scratched again
Steve Staios was a healthy scratch for a fifth straight game; he'll head into the All-Star break with a week off. Dylan Reese paired with Mark Streit and Mark Eaton worked with Milan Jurcina as Capuano juggled two defense pairs . . . Josh Bailey's two shorthanded goals in the last four games doubled his career shorthanded total.