A home-and-home series with the Penguins is expected to include back-to-back milestones for two Islanders' stalwarts.
Casey Cizikas will play in his 500th career game on Tuesday night at Pittsburgh. Brock Nelson will reach 500 against the Penguins on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
“You never really think about getting to those milestones until you’re almost there,” Nelson said. “It’s pretty fun to look back and see where you’ve been and the road that it’s been. Zeeker and I doing it around the same time is pretty cool.”
“I’m excited about it, I’m proud about it,” Cizikas added. “It seems like the years get quicker and quicker.”
Individual milestones aside, the Islanders (14-3-1) can match the franchise record of 15 straight games with at least one point after rallying from a three-goal deficit to win a 4-3 shootout at Philadelphia on Saturday night, extending their current streak to 13-0-1. The Islanders went 15-0-0 from Jan. 21 to Feb. 20, 1982.
Cizikas, who centers the identity-setting line, and Nelson, in between Anthony Beauvillier and Derick Brassard on the second line, are both key factors in the Islanders’ success. And it also speaks to how the Islanders have developed a strong core of players with better-than-average chemistry.
Right wing Josh Bailey passed Bob Bourne on Saturday to move into fifth place on the franchise’s all-time games played list with 815 and both he and Cizikas’ linemate, Cal Clutterbuck, passed the 800-game milestone this season.
Matt Martin, who could return this week from a left leg injury, has played 512 of his 644 games with the Islanders. Captain Anders Lee could reach 500 games late this season if he remains healthy.
Nelson, Cizikas, Bailey and Lee have only played for the Islanders.
“It just shows how tight a group we have,” Cizikas said. “We all started at one point in Bridgeport [the Islanders’ AHL affiliate] and made our way up here. That kind of makes it a little better for most of us.”
Cizikas, in the fourth season of a five-year, $16.75 million deal, was a fourth-round pick in 2009 who made his NHL debut on Feb. 24, 2012 against the Rangers.
“I took a penalty on [Brad] Richards,” Cizikas said. “They scored on it and that was the longest skate back to the bench I’ve ever had. But it was an incredible experience. My family got to come down.”
Nelson, who agreed to a six-year, $36 million extension this past offseason, was the 30th overall pick in 2010, and made his NHL debut on May 11, 2013 as the Islanders were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins.
“I roomed with Zeeker at one of the development camps,” Nelson said. “It’s cool to see guys like that and Leesy and Bails, guys who have hit these milestones in our organization. You’re obviously a good player and the team believes in you and has given you an opportunity.”