Each and every season, some who follow this team closely feel that there are better options night in and night out for the New York Islanders than playing the "Identity Line" of Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, and Casey Cizikas together. When the beat writers post the morning lines, there are the inevitable calls for players who are seemingly faster and most definitely younger to get an opportunity on any given night.
The healthy scratches have been Hudson Fasching and Julian Gauthier for recent games, and while there's been the thought that either of them would find themselves at least rotating in on the fourth line from time to time, so far, head coach Lane Lambert has got with the same familiar three names for each game this season.
The reasons why were on display each of the last two games, both wins for the Islanders and both games where the fourth line made an impact like they always do, but also on the scoring sheet.
Leading 1-0 over the Ottawa Senators, Cizikas laid a hit behind the net, won the puck, looked up, and backhanded a pass to Clutterbuck, who got off a quick release to make it 2-0. When the Isles started taking penalties in the second period, those two were forced into different type of action and helped the team kill seven of eight power plays on the night.
"I thought those guys were full marks for what they do, said Lambert after the 3-2 win. "Casey and Cal killed a ton of penalties and played a lot of minutes short-handed. They gave us what they always give us. They're very disciplined and structured."
Then in Columbus, Martin, who has been playing sparingly because of the way the games have played out was able to knock home a Spencer Martin rebound after Cizikas after the Isles center stole the goaltender's clearing attempt up the middle. The goal gave the Isles an insurance goal and breathing room in a third period where the Blue Jackets were pushing for the game-tying goal.
"It was a huge goal at a critical time," said Lambert. "They were rewarded for basically doing the right things all the time. That's when their rewards come in. If you look at the last game, Clutterbuck's goal, they work, they battle, and whether it's offensively or defensively, they're to be trusted."
Trusted and productive. That's why they keep on getting rolled out there each and every night.