ELMONT, N.Y. — Not only was Casey Cizikas dealing with a lower-body injury that landed him on injured reserve for five weeks, but he was also suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out).
While rehabbing his way back to the ice, the then-struggling Islanders made a head-coaching change, bringing in Patrick Roy to light a fire under a dormant team that was struggling to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
It also helped spark a little something extra in Cizikas.
“Watching them day in and day out — it’s not just in games, it’s in practices as well — the way that they’re battling, the way that guys are coming to the rink every single day prepared and ready,” Cizikas began. “You see that on the ice and I wanted to be a part of that so bad. It just pushed me even harder to get back.”
Naturally, as the 32-year-old has done so many times in his career, he was shot out of a cannon in his first game back from IR, scoring a goal, logging a minute and a half of penalty-kill time, and impressing his new head coach in the Islanders’ 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at UBS Arena.
“He brings so much depth, energy to our lineup,” Roy began as he experienced his first night with New York’s famous fourth line of Cizikas, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck intact. “For some reason, these three are clicking so well. Even one shift they were playing against [Tampa Bay’s first line] and I was very comfortable.
“He was playing PK, he scored a nice goal. I was very impressed with him. For a guy that didn’t play for a bit of time coming into tonight.”
Cizikas netted his sixth goal of the season and his first tally since Dec. 13 with 4:38 remaining in the second period — New York’s sixth and final goal of the night.
Pouncing on a turnover forced by Cal Clutterbuck on the left wing in the Lightning zone, Cizikas drove toward goalie Jonas Johansson’s net through the left circle. Rather than cutting across the face of goal, Cizikas snapped a quick shot that snuck between the netminder’s pad and the near post.
“I was just happy to be back,” Cizikas said. “It’s tough watching your guys battle every single night and going at it together… The way it went tonight, it was easy. The guys made it easy for me. They talked, they let me know where I needed to be, and it was just a great team effort.”