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Casey Cizikas, Islanders' junkyard dog, returns to lineup against Anaheim

The Islanders' Casey Cizikas skates to the net

The Islanders' Casey Cizikas skates to the net against the Flyers at Barclays Center on Sept. 18, 2018. Credit: Steven Ryan

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Casey Cizikas’ return to the Islanders’ lineup on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks may just have earned him a new nickname.

“He’s a little bit of a junkyard dog,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “You can play him in different situations. I think he drives that line and pulls people into the fight and that’s what you want.”

The Islanders activated their “junkyard dog” off injured reserve on Wednesday after Cizikas missed Saturday night’s 5-2 loss at Nashville with a lower-body injury. Trotz also inserted left wing Ross Johnston on Cizikas’ fourth line for Matt Martin and defenseman Luca Sbisa went in for Adam Pelech.

“I’m feeling good,” said Cizikas, who scored the Islanders’ lone goal in their 4-1 loss to the Ducks. “You never want to miss a game, it stinks watching.”

Lehner in goal Thursday?

Goalie Robin Lehner is expected to start against the Kings on Thursday night as the Islanders complete their first set of back-to-back games this season.

That means facing 35-year-old Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, back in the NHL after “retiring” from the Devils in 2013 just three seasons into a 15-year, $100-million deal and spending the past five seasons in the KHL. Kovalchuk has two goals and two assists in his first six games for the Kings.

“It’s cool that he got to come back,” said Lehner, who held Kovalchuk without a goal in their only meeting as Lehner made 31 saves for the Senators in a 2-1 loss to the Devils on Feb. 1, 2011. “He’s a heck of a hockey player. He wants another chance in this league and it’s pretty cool.”

Notes & quotes: Center Stephen Gionta, signed to a one-year deal off a professional tryout offer on Saturday, was re-assigned to Bridgeport (AHL) to open a roster spot for Cizikas…Forward Tom Kuhnhackl was a healthy scratch for the fourth time in five games while Martin and Pelech were out of the lineup for the first time.

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