Isles Fourth Line Grinds Towards Success

Over the past few years the New York Islanders may have found consistency on the top line due largely in part to the chemistry between John Tavares and Matt Moulson. But the same cannot be said for much of the depth on offense.

That is until Casey Cizikas began centering Matt Martin and Colin McDonald.

The trio have been playing together as a fourth line, or as head coach Jack Capuano has liked calling them, "the energy line."

Cizikas, who is only 22-years old and in his first full season with the Isles, is currently fourth on the team in face-offs with a 56.1% success rate. Technically, you might say he is third on the team since Matt Moulson leads them with a 100% rating after going 1-for-1.  He also has two goals and six assists for eight points and a -1 rating. These numbers might not be of the flashiest kind, but they are indicative of a reliable fourth line center in the making.

Despite only being 5'11, he weighs 187 pounds and has been using his solid frame to play noticeably physical. Just look at this hit he threw on Alex Galchenyuk last night. That was one of 7 hits he's had in the past two games.

 
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The look on Frans Nielsen's face is priceless.

His partner in crime all year has been McDonald, who joined the Isles at the start of the late season right out of Bridgeport. He too has eight points on the year; an even split of four goals and assists. Between both match-ups against the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, McDonald added 10 hits to his stat count to give him a total of 62 that place him second on the team. Travis Hamonic places third with almost half that amount (32). McDonald's 6'1, 210-pound stature has found a niche on this team as a pesky grinder who throws his body at any opponent.

But no one on this team does that better than Matt Martin, who is looking to reclaim his title as the NHL's hits leader despite a shortened season. Between the past two games, Martin added 17 hits to the score sheets to provide him 110 hits on the year. That's just one better than Buffalo Sabres forward Steve Ott, who sits second in the league with 109.

He was last night's second star of the game with one goal and one assist on the night; his goal was the first power play goal of his career. His strong play earned him several power play chances and was a useful body in front of the net with his 6'3, 206-pound frame screening Carey Price. He is also a valuable member of this team's penalty killing unit (Photo Credit: Clydeorama/Flickr).

These three defensive forwards have combined to form one of the better fourth lines that this team has seen in years. They bang bodies, cycle the puck well in the offensive zone and are given the opportunity to shut down the opponent's top unit. It's a role that each of them enjoy on a nightly basis.

"We like that, we thrive off that. We thrive off each other," said Matt Martin after the victory over the Senators. "We're all on the same page out there. We know what we got to do and we know what we want to do."

Guys like Tavares and Moulson may be the ones racking up the majority of goals and points, but these grinders are equally as important to this team's success. Due to their valuable play, the Isles have created a two-game winning streak and will look to continue to their winning ways to end their seven game home-stand this weekend.

-Rob McGowan

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