NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Islanders needed a Casey Cizikas-like player to replace their injured center, though replicating all that the identity-setting fourth-liner does is a difficult task. Still, Cole Bardreau hopes to show he’s more than just a fill-in during his second NHL stint.
“It’s tough to see Casey go down. You can’t replace a guy like him on or off the ice,” Bardreau said. “But I do think there are assets that I have that can help this team move forward and keep winning.”
Bardreau took Cizikas’ spot between left wing Matt Martin and Leo Komarov as the Islanders opened a four-game road trip against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night.
Cizikas is out three to four weeks after suffering a left leg laceration when he was cut by defenseman Ivan Provorov’s skate blade early in the first period of Tuesday’s 5-3 win over the Flyers at Barclays Center. The Islanders rely on the left-shooting Cizikas as a key penalty-killer as well as for taking crucial faceoffs.
The right-shooting Bardreau, 26, recalled from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport on Wednesday, had a goal and an assist in a nine-game stint from Oct. 19-Nov. 9.
“Just not knowing if I was ever going to get a chance, it was just pure excitement the first time,” said Bardreau, an undrafted free agent out of Cornell who spent the previous five seasons in the Flyers’ organization without getting an NHL call-up. “The first time, it was just getting my feet wet. Now it’s show the ability to stick and that I’m not just a fill-in guy.”
“Casey is a big part of what we do. He gives us a lot of identity,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Cole Bardreau is going in that spot today and I expect the same thing he did last time — give us the same qualities that make Casey exceptional. He plays with that energy. He plays with passion. He’s good on faceoffs. He kills penalties. And he is a pain to play against.”
Bardreau’s ability to bring a skill set similar to that of Cizikas was a crucial factor in opting to recall him from Bridgeport over the more offensively-gifted Otto Koivula.
The 21-year-old Koivula, a fourth-round pick in 2016, has seven goals and 11 assists in 32 games for Bridgeport but did not record a point in seven games with the Islanders this season.
Bardreau has two goals and one assist in 29 AHL games this season. He became only the seventh NHL player to notch his first career goal on a penalty shot when he scored in a 4-1 win over the visiting Senators on Nov. 5.
The fourth line also has been without right wing Cal Clutterbuck since Dec. 19, when his left wrist was slashed by the skate blade of the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron. He remains out indefinitely.
“When you ask me what are we considering in terms of options, those are the things,” Trotz said. “Let’s stay to that identity. That line has been really good. I think Leo has gone in and done a great job for Clutter. Marty continues to do what Marty does. Cole is the closest to that element. Even though Otto is more of an offensive threat, Cole kills penalties, is a right-handed draw, which we haven’t had a lot of this year, and is just the best fit.”
“He’s a similar player in the style of game he likes to play,” said Martin, who scored on a two-on-one rush off Komarov’s feed in the first period on Tuesday after Cizikas was hurt. “Casey is not an easy guy to replace. I don’t know if he’s replaceable.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Anders Lee-Mathew Barzal-Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Josh Bailey
Michael Dal Colle-Derick Brassard-Kieffer Bellows
Matt Martin-Cole Bardreau-Leo Komarov
Devon Toews-Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk
Noah Dobson-Scott Mayfield
Thomas Greiss (16-7-2, 2.55 goals-against average, .920 save percentage)
Mikael Granlund-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson
Filip Forsberg-Matt Duchene-Kyle Turris
Rocco Grimaldi-Nick Bonino-Craig Smith
Calle Jarnkrok-Colton Sissons-Austin Watson
Roman Josi-Dante Fabbro
Jarred Tinordi-Mattias Ekholm
Dan Hamhuis-Yannick Weber
Juuse Saros (9-9-4, 3.03, .901)