When the New York Islanders were in the thick of some of their toughest battles against the Tampa Bay Lightning last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, Casey Cizikas was stuck watching from afar.
Cizikas called it frustrating when he was asked to look back on that moment as the Islanders get ready to face Tampa once again in the semifinals. He left Game 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals with a detached retina and underwent successful surgery in the offseason to fix it.
Less than a year later with his team back in a familiar spot, the Islanders fourth-liner is relishing the chance to make an impact this time around.
“I took it hard. You get so far and to have to go out like that wasn’t easy, but here we are again and I’m excited,” Casey Cizikas said. “I think everybody is excited and we’re ready to go.”
As part of the Islanders’ “identity line,” Casey Cizikas has helped make an impact during the team’s run back to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. Cizikas’ physical play has helped generate chances for the Islanders’ offense and his work in the faceoff circle has made him one of the best in the league during the postseason.
Cizikas has had a 61.1 percent success rate through the first two rounds, which has seen him win 97 of the 158 draws that he as taken in the playoffs. And on the penalty kill, he has been another important asset.
When Cizikas went out in the early part of the conference finals last year, the Islanders felt it. So much so that when they reached the trade deadline this year, they made sure to add someone who gives them depth at center.
“He left a huge hole,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Casey brings penalty killing, he gives you grit. He gives you all late-game situations, he can do faceoffs.”
Knowing just how well Tampa can play, the Islanders will need all the help they can get to defeat them and move on to the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa has been one of the highest-scoring teams in the playoffs and their power play has been lethal.
🎥 Cizikas & Mayfield Practice Availability 🎥 pic.twitter.com/4c7ynPwiGq
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 12, 2021
Disrupting both will fall on Casey Cizikas along with the rest of the Isles’ roster. However, if Tampa wants to beat the Islanders, it won’t be because New York didn’t come to play, Cizikas stated.
“Our game is where it has to be, so going into this we’re going to play hard,” Cizikas said. “We’re going to play our style and they’re going to have to beat us. We’re not going to beat ourselves. We’re going to play straight-line hockey. We’re going to get pucks in deep and we’re just going to play as hard as we can.”