Niederreiter's return timely for Isles

Nino Niederreiter skates in pre-game warmups before the

Nino Niederreiter skates in pre-game warmups before the team's annual Blue and White scrimmage and skills competition at Nassau Coliseum. (July 16, 2011) (Credit: James Escher)

Jack Capuano was fuming after Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Canucks, wanting to give a few of his listless forwards a kick in the pants.

His chance to do so with at least one of his Islanders regulars comes Tuesday night, when the Rangers come to the Coliseum and Nino Niederreiter makes his season debut.

Niederreiter, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2010 draft, had a spot among the top 12 forwards fairly well locked up even as training camp began. He started camp on the right side of Matt Moulson and John Tavares and got to play one preseason game with that duo before suffering a groin injury that changed up Capuano's plans.

Now, with the Islanders scuffling through a 1-6-3 slide and a few wingers struggling in a big way, Niederreiter's return from a two-week, six- game conditioning stint in Bridgeport is timely.

"It was a good two weeks. I think I picked up some confidence there at the end," Niederreiter said. "If I get a chance to play [Tuesday night], I just want to bring some physical play, go to the net and try and get some ugly goals to help the team."

Any of those things will help the Islanders, who have been a one-line team offensively on most nights and have scored a league-low 29 goals.

Blake Comeau (no points in 12 games, minus-6) and Kyle Okposo (no goals in 14 games, minus-7) are the two wingers in the worst slumps, but Capuano was unhappy with the Brian Rolston-Frans Nielsen-P.A. Parenteau line as well on Sunday.

Niederreiter had a goal in each of his last three games in Bridgeport, including a penalty-shot goal in the Sound Tigers' 4-3 win over Hershey on Sunday.

The 19-year-old wing had four points in his six games and was a plus-4, and his willingness to engage in the greasy areas of the ice and be physical will be welcomed by Capuano.

"We've got guys turning away from plays, not finishing checks," Capuano said on Sunday. "We've got some guys who need to start playing."

One of them will stop Tuesday night, which may be the boost the team needs.

Notes & quotes: Rolston will play his 1,200th NHL game Tuesday night provided he's not the healthy scratch, becoming the 88th player all-time to reach that mark. "It's a lot of games," Rolston said. "I think the key to it is focusing on every day, every game and trying to do something to contribute."

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