ST. LOUIS – Things are breaking right for the Islanders.
They were able to enjoy Wednesday’s day off in the Gateway City knowing Casey Cizikas would be available for Thursday night’s contest against the struggling Blues at Enterprise Center. The Islanders will be looking to extend their four-game winning streak in the middle match of a three-game Midwestern swing.
The NHL announced Cizikas had been fined the maximum $5,000 after being ejected for receiving a match penalty and five-minute major for goalie interference as his shoulder connected with the head of Chicago’s Alex Stalock at 2:56 of the first period in Tuesday night’s 3-1 win. But Cizikas, the identity-setting, fourth-line center who is crucial to the Islanders’ ability to roll four lines as well as to their lockdown penalty kill, avoided suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety.
Stalock was placed in concussion protocol on Wednesday.
“Today (he’s) much better, so that’s encouraging,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson told the media after his team’s practice on Wednesday. “I think he got really jarred. I don’t know if his head hit the post or the ice, but I haven’t really looked at it that close. Sometimes there’s a lot of cranial stuff with neck injuries so, hopefully, it’s something like that and it’s not a big blow to the head.”
Richardson said after Tuesday’s game that he did not believe Cizikas showed intent to injure Stalock.
Islanders coach Lane Lambert agreed, saying Cizikas is, “not the type of player that’s going to hit a goaltender on purpose.”
The Islanders killed off three of Chicago’s four power plays, including Cizikas’ five-minute major and defenseman Adam Pelech’s delay of game minor at 15:48 of the third period as they nursed a 2-1 lead. Their penalty kill is now 32-for-34 (94.1%), good for third in the NHL behind the Bruins (94.6%) and the Sharks (94.4%).
“I think we’ve got guys who are pretty heady guys killing penalties,” said Cal Clutterbuck, who logged 2:18 of shorthanded time on Tuesday. “I think we’ve got a great plan for what we’re about to face. I think Laner said it best after the game, you don’t want to tempt it too much but it’s all about getting the big ones. It’s a combination of a good plan, guys knowing what they’re doing and just eating it (blocking shots) when you have to eat it.”
The Islanders next face a Blues’ squad that’s tied for last in the NHL with six points, has lost five straight in which it’s been outscored by an aggregate 25-8 and has scored an NHL-low 19 goals. General manager Doug Armstrong felt compelled to give a vote of confidence to coach Craig Berube – who led the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019 – after Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the visiting Kings.
Notes & quotes: Matt Martin is expected to rejoin the Islanders after remaining on Long Island on Tuesday to be with his wife, Sydney, as she gave birth to the couple’s second child.