PITTSBURGH - The Islanders already had to adjust to playing without Andrew MacDonald, their top minutes-eating defenseman who is done for the year with a broken hand.
They may have to play the must-win Game 6 without Frans Nielsen, one of their top forwards. Nielsen left last night's Game 5 with what the team termed a lower body injury and did not return.
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Nielsen was walking around outside the Islanders dressing room after the game, hobbling a bit and clearly in some discomfort. His availability for Game 6 is up in the air.
Capuano shuffles 'D'
With MacDonald out, Brian Strait got the assignment to play top-pair defense in Game 5, alongside Travis Hamonic. "He handled [those kinds of minutes] before he got hurt. I feel Brian can play top minutes in this league," Jack Capuano said. "We know what we're getting with Brian -- he likes to play physical, he's a competitor."
Capuano also brought in Thomas Hickey, who hadn't played since Game 1, and Radek Martinek, who made his 2013 postseason debut. Matt Carkner was a healthy scratch. Jesse Joensuu also made his playoff debut, taking David Ullstrom's spot.
Cizikas enjoying ride
Casey Cizikas isn't just playing in his first postseason, he's thriving. With two goals and two assists, he leads all rookies in playoff scoring. "It's surreal," he said.
Considering Cizikas' season started in September with AHL camp in Bridgeport, it's been a long ride. "That feels like a different season," Cizikas said of starting the year with the Sound Tigers. "Even just March, the [NHL] regular season, feels like a long time ago. I honestly didn't follow the lockout at all, I was focused on Bridgeport, with what was I was doing. When the NHL camp came, I just tried to do what I could to make the team. Every day is a new challenge."