The defensive corps of the NY Islanders have been taking the brunt of the injuries suffered this season, but Casey Cizikas is the latest victim.
After blocking a Filip Hronek slap shot in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks, Cizikas struggled to get to his feet, leading to a goal from Hronek moments later. Cizikas was helped to the bench and immediately headed down the tunnel to the locker room. He returned to the bench towards the end of the period but did not return for the start of the second.
"He's [Cizikas] a big part of the group," Lane Lambert said. "His motor's always running, so guys are going to have to replace him somehow and certainly we have the ability to do that. It affects a couple different areas for us but as we've done and will continue to do, with our defensemen or whoever else is out, next man up mentality."
Cizikas is listed as week-to-week but hasn’t been placed on IR. Stefan Rosner of The Hockey News asked Lambert why Cizikas wasn’t placed on IR to make way for a call-up, to which the Isles bench boss responded, “You’ll have to ask Lou [Lamoriello] that.”
With Cizikas missing a lengthy amount of time, that leaves a hole in the middle of the Islanders' fourth line. Without a call-up from Bridgeport, Lambert shuffled all four lines, with JG Pageau filling the void between Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck.
Clutterbuck previously filled in for Cizikas during his one game absence in an Islanders 5-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Dec. 29. But with Cizikas missing multiple weeks, Lanbert doesn't feel Clutterbuck at center is a sustainable option.
"I thought Clutter did a decent job," said Lambert. "But the length of time that Casey is going to be out, I don't think we can manage to have a non-centerman play center for an extended period."
The Isles are taking on the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs tonight and will be without one of their top penalty killers against a team that ranks sixth in the NHL. The Isles are dealing with his absence using the pieces they already have in place, but there may come a time when Lamoriello looks for help from Bridgeport.