EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas is a game-time decision for Thursday night’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning at UBS Arena, head coach Patrick Roy disclosed on Wednesday.
“We’ll see after warmups [on Thursday before the game],” Roy said.
Cizikas has been out since Jan. 9 after suffering a lower-body injury in the first period of a game against the Vancouver Canucks. He was transferred to long-term injured reserve on Feb. 4 amidst an Islanders roster shuffle to help make room for the return of defenseman Ryan Pulock from LTIR.
Wednesday morning’s practice saw Cizikas wearing a full-contact uniform. He had been wearing a non-contact kit in recent skates this week. He then proceeded to join his usual fourth linemates, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, on line rushes to suggest that he’s close to being activated.
“I thought that he looked good today,” Roy said.
The 32-year-old center is one of the engines of New York’s celebrated fourth line. In 39 games this season he’s recorded five goals and six assists. His role has recently been filled by Kyle MacLean — a 24-year-old forward who recorded his first NHL goal on Monday night in Toronto against the Maple Leafs during a 3-2 victory.
Cizikas’ return will require another roster move to get his contract back on the books upon activation. Per CapFriendly, the Islanders currently have approximately $134,000 in cap space and Cizikas’ $2.5 million hit would put them over.
Sending MacLean back down to the minors would help get the Islanders back under the cap — a move made out of necessity but would come at an unfortunate time given how well he had been playing.