The Islanders' Nino Niederreiter reacts during the the Orange vs....

The Islanders' Nino Niederreiter reacts during the the Orange vs. Blue scrimmage at Ice Works in Syosset. (June 28, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Lockout or not, Nino Niederreiter's first games this season were most likely going to be with Bridgeport. The 20-year-old winger had one of the uglier rookie seasons in recent NHL history, with one goal, no assists and a minus-29 rating in 55 games, most of them spent as a fourth-line wing.

So the feeling in the Islanders organization was, unless Niederreiter had a tremendous training camp, he was ticketed to start the season in the AHL to build up some confidence.

Niederreiter doesn't see it that way.

"I didn't even think a little bit about the AHL this summer," Niederreiter said on Monday, following the Sound Tigers' second full practice at IceWorks in Syosset. "I was prepaing to do everything I could to be a part of the NHL team, and that's what I did. When this lockout is over, I'm going to prove I belong with the Islanders."

Niederreiter said he "lost track" during his rookie year, trying too hard to fit a fourth-liner's role rather than use the skill that got him drafted fifth overall in 2010.

"I didn't know exactly what kind of player I should be," he said. "I tried to be a grinder instead of being the skill player I always was."

That sort of talk may not sit so well with Jack Capuano, who kept Niederreiter on the fourth line to get the rookie to learn the two-way game. But with time in Bridgeport now, the hope is Niederreiter will regain the hard edge and scoring touch that both left him during his lost season.

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