EAST MEADOW — Lane Lambert is never afraid to ride the Islanders’ hot hand when something is working, even if that means splitting up traditional partnerships that have become commonplace within the organization.
So on Saturday morning ahead of the Islanders’ important tilt against the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET), the practice lines did not immediately reunite Cal Clutterbuck with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin, who for years have worked together on what was the fourth line.
Instead, Clutterbuck cycled in on the fourth unit alongside Josh Bailey and Pierre Engvall while Martin and Cizikas continue working with Hudson Fasching — the 27-year-old continuing to impress in his first regular opportunity to play at the NHL level.
“He’s a big body, he moves really well, and he’s really smart out there,” Cizikas said of Fasching. “The way he plays, he plays hard and that’s the biggest thing when it comes to our lineup.”
Their partnership has been invaluable for the Islanders lately. Fasching connected with Cizikas to score the tying goal of what became a four-goal third-period outburst on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
While trailing 3-1 on Thursday in Pittsburgh, Cizikas found Fasching in front to pull the Islanders within one with just 5:29 remaining in regulation. They scrambled to tit it with 1:15 to go before pulling out a winner in overtime — all of this coming after Fasching scored the game-winner just two nights earlier at UBS Arena against the Buffalo Sabres.
Fasching is certainly making the most of his chance to play in the NHL. He’s on a three-game point streak and has at least one point in four of his last five. Not bad for a winger who had 38 career games in the NHL across five seasons with two different teams.
“I [think it is surprising],” Cizikas admitted on the time it took for Fasching to find a spot in the pros. “The way he’s played this year, the way he’s shown what he can do, sometimes it takes longer. But when you get an opportunity, you take full advantage of it and that’s what he’s doing right now.”
What has helped make a surprising duo on Long Island is what Cizikas described as “honesty.” The two are in constant communication on the bench, ensuring that every aspect of their games is broken down — even if it’s not the most comfortable topic of conversation.
“We’re not afraid to tell each other what we’re thinking on the bench,” Fasching said. “It’s like ‘hey, see me here.’ There’s no anger or animosity behind it. It’s just like, ‘hey, do you see me or not?’ and we’re not mad at each other ever.
“There’s a big onus on that. They’ve made me feel incredibly comfortable and able as a call-up guy to be able to speak my mind freely without feeling the repercussions from that.”
For Cizikas, it’s a concept that he’s a bit more familiar with given his long-standing relationship playing alongside Martin and Clutterbuck. The three have spent the majority of the last nine years working together.
Fasching, on the other hand, hasn’t had such a luxury. Since graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2016, he had played for two other NHL teams (the Sabres and Arizona Coyotes) and three AHL teams.
And he’s never experienced a working rapport with a teammate quite like this.
“Guys tend to get a little sensitive, especially being critiqued by their own teammates,” Fasching said. “I mean, it’s not only critiques when we’re helping each other. It’s compliments, too. It’s not like we’re just sitting there ripping on each other on the bench or anything.
“We’re just trying to help each other. I think we both understand that and I think that makes it very beneficial. But it’s definitely not a common thing.”