McDonald, Cizikas ex-Sound Tigers who've made the big time
Updated 11:40 pm, Tuesday, April 30, 2013
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- All he wanted, he said back on July 2, was a chance.
Now, 10 months later, Colin McDonald has taken hold of that chance. He earned himself a place in the NHL at age 28, joining a few former Bridgeport Sound Tigers on a New York Islanders team that reached the playoffs for the first time in six years.
He'll make his NHL playoff debut Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, and the 10 months since the Islanders signed him as an unrestricted free agent are a whirlwind he doesn't really want to contemplate right now.
"I'm trying to stay as focused as possible," McDonald said Tuesday after the Islanders' last practice before heading to Pittsburgh.
"I can understand the question. I'm happy with the way things have turned out. It took a while to get this opportunity."
McDonald spent four years in Edmonton's organization, then last year in Pittsburgh's, getting the call for just seven NHL games.
But he was a leader in Bridgeport during the NHL lockout earlier this season, named captain in mid-December. The Islanders called him up Jan. 13, and he cemented himself with his hard work and grit with ample skill.
"He's made big plays, been tough to play against. He's a dominant player on the ice. I could see it from the start down in Bridgeport. It's been nice to see. He's a great guy. It's nice to see him get rewarded for his hard work."
One reward came March 15, when the Islanders announced that McDonald had agreed to terms on a two-year extension.
"There was a little sense of relief, of accomplishment," McDonald said. "It took five and a half years to get that deal. I couldn't be happier to be a part of this group."
Cizikas established himself, too, after finishing last season with the Islanders. He wasn't thrilled with his start in Bridgeport -- a plus/minus rating of minus-15 grated on a forward who prides himself on defense -- but got to play a lot in the AHL, and he found the edge he needed after the lockout.
"I kind of just found where my game needed to be at," Cizikas said.
"I might not be the best skater, (have) the best shot or whatever, but the main thing is nobody's going to outwork me."
That attitude helped the Islanders go 11-2-4 in their final 17 games and earn their first playoff berth since 2007. They haven't won a playoff round since 1993, and Pittsburgh is heavily favored.
But at least the Islanders have a chance.
"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this playoff experience," McDonald said, "especially playing the way we played the last few months. It's been a lot of fun."
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