Casey Cizikas was surrounded by media and grinning from ear-to-ear, a reaction that can be expected from a 20-year-old standing for the first time in an NHL locker room. In the midst of his first year of professional hockey, the 5-11, 192 pound center received his first NHL call up yesterday and will be in the lineup tonight when the Islanders look to earn two big points in their playoff hunt from their cross town rivals, the New York Rangers.
|Casey Cizikas, a self-described gritty player, looks to make contribute and add spark in his NHL debut tonight.
His energy seemed contagious, and he is looking to contribute.
“Tonight I have to focus on what I have to do out there to try to make this team successful,” Cizikas said. I am going to try to help them in every way possible.”
Cizikas will center Brian Rolston and Matt Martin, and his style of play could really spark the line and compliment the game of his linemates.
“I try to get the puck deep, I try to muck and grind,” Cizikas said. “I don’t think I’m the prettiest player out there, but those dirty goals are my type of goals. I try to block shots and do the little things to help out there…I work down low and take the body.”
In Bridgeport, Cizikas is having the rookie year dreams are made of. He leads the Sound Tigers in scoring with 44 points (15g/29a) and has a rating of plus-25. In January, he was named to the AHL All-Star team.
When he got the call from Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson that he was headed to Long Island, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Coach Tommer called me and told me,” Cizikas said. “I said ‘are you kidding me right now?’ I called my parents right away, and they were definitely excited too.”
Performing the way that he has for the Sound Tigers, the Islanders fourth round (92nd overall) selection in the 2009 entry draft, seemed like a perfect candidate to get the call up to the big squad.
“It’s always in the back of your mind thinking, ‘is it my time?’” Cizikas said. ”But I was having such a good time there that I wasn’t thinking about it. The guys that we have there make it a lot easier. The team that we have had a lot of guys called up, Ullie (David Ullstrom), Rhett (Rakhshani), Jeremy Colliton, Hales (Micheal Haley), Gills (Trevor Gillies)…we’ve had a lot of guys who have played in the NHL. It was a surprise when I got the call.
Supporting him at the game tonight, one of the biggest games of his young career, will be several members of his family, who were already headed down from Mississauga, ON to see him play in Bridgeport.
“It’s huge,” Cizikas said of tonight’s game. “I don’t think anything can prepare you for what is about to come tonight. I’m playing against some great players on the other side and it’s going to be fun playing with the guys on this team. We’ve got great players on this team, and I hope I don’t make too many mistakes out there.”
He will celebrate his 21st birthday on Monday, and the call-up can be looked at as a pretty good gift. Getting the win would be the icing on the cake.