DALLAS — Casey Cizikas was back at center for the Islanders’ fourth line against the Stars on Saturday night after missing a game for the first time this season Thursday night in Nashville because of an upper-body injury.
“I’m really excited; it’s not easy watching,” he said after the morning skate. “You’re itching every second of the game; you want to be out there. You want to be playing with your teammates and be helping the team.”
Coach Jack Capuano called Cizikas “one of our best players, to be honest with you. That’s what Islander hockey is all about; it’s about grit and determination, and that’s what he brings to the table. You’re playing teams that are very talented, and you want to see guys play with that grit and compete hard and win those battles. That’s what he does.”
Smaller goalie pads?
John Tavares on whether he is in favor of the most recent movement to make goaltenders’ pads smaller to boost scoring:
“Certainly the way this season has gone, for sure,” he said. “It’s ebbs and flows of the way the game goes, and it seems to be the last couple of years, at least, scoring is trending to go down . . . As a guy who likes to score, obviously I’ll never say no.”
n Changing lines
Other than Cizikas’ line, Capuano continued to show a quick trigger on changing combinations. For Saturday night, he began with Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome as Tavares’ wingers.
“We’ve had some success before, just looking at our numbers in the past, and with Grabovski out, that’s a line that’s clicked before,” Capuano said. “It’s going to be tough on the road with two young guys on Johnny’s flanks, going against probably one of their top lines. So we’ll see how they do here.”
What does Tavares think of all the line-shuffling? “I think that’s usually an indication you’re not playing very well,” he said. “I think we’re just trying to find some balance. We’re all very familiar with playing with each other.”
Capuano also had Brian Strait on defense, with Ryan Pulock, who scored his first NHL goal on Thursday night, taking a seat.
“This is an experienced team, and Brian’s a heavy player; he’s an experienced guy,” Capuano said. “I have said all along: Ryan’s going to play games down the stretch. But we have to utilize everybody. I think Brian’s played extremely well. He probably had no right to come out after the Pittsburgh game , to be honest with you.”
Achilles surgery for Seguin
Tyler Seguin, the Stars’ star center, visited the locker room after the morning skate on crutches, two days after suffering a cut to an Achilles tendon that required surgery. He is expected to miss up to a month.
“I saw blood on my hand and got worried,” he said. “When I got off the ice and started taking my skate off, then I started, not panicking, but getting pretty worried. You see a lot of horror movies. My mind was racing a million different ways.”
Said Jamie Benn, the Stars’ top scorer, “It’s going to be tough, but it gives other guys in this room an opportunity to step up their game, myself included.”
Kyle Okposo was furious late in the Islanders’ 3-0 loss to the Stars when, with the Islanders still within two goals, he had his stick slashed out from his hands in the offensive zone. There was no call.
“He slashed my stick and I got back to the bench and they said wasn’t looking at it,” Okposo said. “It happens. It’s just frustration boiling over after having no power plays last game and then one tonight. It’s just a little bit of frustration on my part.”
Emptying the net early
Capuano pulled Thomas Greiss with 4:06 remaining and the Islanders trailing by two goals. The Stars then iced the game with an empty-net goal with 2:54 left.
Why pull the goalie so early?
“I mean, that’s the time we should pull it,” Capuano said. “At that time we had the offensive-zone faceoff and I thought maybe we could get one there, and we had some chances.”