PITTSBURGH — Casey Cizikas returned to the lineup on Thursday night after missing the last four games. He was a sight for Doug Weight’s sore eyes.
“When he’s out, you feel it as a coach,” Weight said. “Always so reliable, on both sides of the puck. He’s a physical guy, tough to play against. I rely on him in every situation, whether it’s faceoffs, penalty kill or getting us going after a goal. It’s been a little bit of a space in my mind. You really see his presence missed in a game like Tampa.”
Cizikas crashed hard into the boards during the Islanders’ 2-1 win over the Senators on Nov. 25 and missed the third period of that game. He had been skating for several days, and Weight last week was optimistic that Cizikas would be able to play in the Florida swing of this four-game road trip, but the center ended up staying behind on Long Island when the team left town on Sunday.
“It was feeling good for a little bit. One day went back out there and it just didn’t feel right,” Cizikas said. “With the time left in the season, we felt there was no need to rush it. Our trainers did a good job of making sure I was ready to be out there this week.”
Cizikas took Alan Quine’s spot in the lineup. Quine skated on Thursday morning, but Weight said the absence was injury-related, though not considered serious. Cizikas’ return off injured reserve did not require a corresponding roster move with the team now at the 23-man limit.
Johnny Boychuk missed a game for the first time this season. He took part in the team’s morning skate Thursday but then hobbled off with an undisclosed injury.
Weight was about to address reporters when he was notified that Boychuk could not play. The defenseman took a shot up high late in Tuesday’s loss to the Lightning but shook it off and finished that game.
“He had some remnants from it last game, and sometimes you just don’t know until you get back out there,” Weight said. “We weren’t expecting it. But I wouldn’t think he’ll miss very long.”
Weight had Ryan Pulock skating with Nick Leddy and Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield paired up on defense.