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Niederreiter's back, but will he play?

by John Kreiser
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Nino Niederreiter's two-week conditioning stint with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers is over -- he scored goals in each of his last three games. The New York Islanders' top pick in the 2010 NHL Draft is back on Long Island, but coach Jack Capuano won't commit to playing him in Tuesday night's game against the New York Rangers.

In fact, Capuano wouldn't commit to what his lines would look like when his team takes the ice tonight, other than that Evgeni Nabokov will make his second straight start in goal, with Al Montoya as his backup.

"I think that he can bring an element of size and physicality to our lineup," Capuano said of the 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward, who looked good in training camp before suffering a groin injury. "What I'd like to see him do is like all the other guys -- play within the team structure but play loose and enjoy yourself."

There hasn't been much to enjoy on the Island lately. The Islanders are mired in a 1-6-3 slump that began after a 4-2 victory against the Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 15. That includes an 0-2-1 road trip that ended with a 4-1 loss at Vancouver on Sunday night.

"Some guys are squeezing their sticks right now," Capuano said. "As bad as the last couple of weeks (have been), we've had some chances; we’re just not scoring."

As for what he's looking for from Niederreiter, whether it's tonight or later in the week?

"I want him to play like he played at Bridgeport," Capuano said. "He worked hard and got himself back to where he needed to be.

"Obviously he's had some success in junior hockey; he scored some big goals. For us -- top nine, with some power-play time. He's got quick hands for a big guy. Hopefully we'll get some pucks to the net, he'll get to the net and good things will happen."

Niederreiter spent nine games with the Islanders last season before being returned to Portland of the Western Hockey League. The Islanders could send him back again, but he wants to make the kind of impression that will keep him on Long Island for good.

"I'm excited to be back here," he said. "If I get the chance tonight, hopefully I can score.

"I'm just trying to do the best I can every night to show (GM) Garth (Snow) that I can stay here and he can't send me down. This is definitely where I want to be."

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