Doug Weight seemingly had an easy roster decision to make among his forwards on Saturday. Cal Clutterbuck had a minor hip issue, suffered in the ugly loss in Columbus on Friday. Weight had Josh Ho-Sang waiting in the wings and a line of Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson and Ho-Sang he’d put together early in training camp that was waiting to be reunited.
Weight went a different way, however. He put Casey Cizikas between Beauvillier and Ho-Sang and put Nelson with presumptive fourth-liners Nikolay Kulemin and Jason Chimera.
And the coach got what he was looking for. Cizikas worked well with the talented kids, assisting on Beauvillier’s goal in the third while contributing a shorthanded goal and the empty-net clincher in a 6-3 win.
Nelson, in the coach’s doghouse a bit after a nondescript preseason and being one among many Islanders who failed to make an impression in Friday’s 5-0 loss, used his new role well.
“Brock’s best game in, well, the year for sure, preseason too,” Weight said after Saturday’s win over the Sabres. “He was good, he was physical, very assertive, very reliable and he created a lot of offense. That was exciting for me to see and I needed to see it frankly. That line was very good.”
As for Cizikas, who had the first two-goal and three-point games of his career, the 26-year-old center chuckled when asked about playing with the 20-year-old Beauvillier and 21-year-old Ho-Sang.
“My job is to create some space for those two guys and not get in their way,” he said.
After putting up 25 points in 59 games last season, the first on a five-year, $16.75-million deal, Weight believed that Cizikas could give him some options that weren’t limited to his usual role as fourth-line center and penalty killer.
“To me, he’s always been a dangerous player, he’s feisty but he’s got some vision,” Weight said. “I love our fourth-line mentality with Clutter and Kulie, but Clutter and Kulie, Chimmer too, they’re good players. They can play with other players.”
Those two new lines will stay together for Monday’s matinee against the Blues at Barclays Center with Clutterbuck still sidelined, though he did practice on Sunday. Weight didn’t indicate he was changing anything from Saturday, when he got excellent work from his defense and from Jaroslav Halak in goal, despite a couple miscues that led to Sabres shorthanded goals.
The Islanders will fly out right after Monday’s game to California, where they play three games starting Wednesday in Anaheim.