The Islanders will be without forwards Casey Cizikas and Tom Kuhnhackl for the remainder of the playoffs.
Before the Isles’ 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon, the team announced that Cizikas and Kuhnhackl sustained injuries and would be unavailable for the rest of the postseason. Both players left the Edmonton bubble.
Barry Trotz said he knew Saturday night one of the two would be leaving the bubble before finding out about the other Sunday morning.
“They both mean a lot to our team, it’s not just one or the other,” defenseman Nick Leddy said on a Zoom call following Sunday’s loss. “It’s very tough. You never want to see a guy get hurt. The biggest thing is a next-man mentality. We need guys to step up in our locker room and I have faith we’ll do that.”
Losing Cizikas and Kuhnhackl is a major hit to the Islanders’ depth. Even though Kuhnhackl played in just three games this postseason, it was a luxury to have him waiting in the wings.
Cizikas played a crucial role centering the fourth line, otherwise known as the Identity Line, between Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. Without Cizikas, Trotz bumped Martin and Clutterbuck to the wings on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s line and created a new fourth line of Ross Johnston, Derick Brassard and Leo Komarov.
The 28-year-old Kuhnhackl hadn’t played since the first three games of the play-in round against the Panthers. Cizikas, who has collected two assists in 18 games, was scratched for Game 3 Friday night.
With the lines out of whack, the Islanders struggled to generate offense as the Lightning held them to just one goal for the second time this series.
“We want those guys in the lineup, but those were just the cards we were dealt right now,” Josh Bailey said.
The Islanders went 0-for-3 on the power play, but went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
Through four games against Tampa Bay, the Islanders have gone 1-for-14 with the man-advantage while the Lightning are 4-for-13.
“I think, for the most part, we’ve been pretty close to even against a very good power play,” Trotz said. “[Sunday] they didn’t get one, we didn’t get one, the game was five-on-five.”
Leddy said he thought the Islanders were getting good chances but were just falling short on the finish. He pinned some of the blame on himself, noting that he wants to be better at getting pucks to the net and through traffic more effectively.
“We all just have to be a little better, it starts with us and we can create a lot of momentum for our team,” he said. “We need to start doing that.”