Malik on the ice; Heward sits
Have to apologize for yesterday's post. I obviously misunderstood hockey ops chief Brian Lawton when he explained Marek Malik's timetable for getting to Tampa. The defenseman was on the ice during Thursday's morning skate, having gotten into town Wednesday night from Prague. He is a big boy, and will wear No. 22, Dan Boyle's old number.
Malik said he still has not signed a contract. He confirmed he and the team had talked during the summer but said conversations really heated up the past two or three weeks. Malik said he has been skating for the past two months, five or six times a week.
He said sometimes it's best to jump right in but figured he'd be ready to play in five to seven days. Coach Barry Melrose, though, said his tentative plan was to have Malik ready for Tuesday's game with the Thrashers.
Malik said he decided between three or four other teams.
"Tampa Bay seemed like the best choice for me," he said. "I really liked what they did with the team in the summer, signing free agents. I always liked how they play. They try to play offensive hockey, and with the signings in the summer, the team looks really, really good; really, really positive. There's a good mix of players."
Beyond that, "With my age (33), I didn't want to choose something just to be signed. I wanted something that was good for me and I could help the team. Plus, if the team is going to be god and have a chance to make the playoffs."
"Marek Malik has been around a long time," Melrose said. "You know what he gives you. He's a big body, good defensively, takes up a lot of room, takes away time and space and is a good penalty killer."
As for the dustup Malik had last season with Rangers coach Tom Renney -- the Daily News and New York Post reported Malik, upset about being a healthy scratch refused to shake the coach's hand after a game -- was overblown by the media, and the air has been cleared.
"Me and Tom talked, basically, the very next day and straightened things out," Malik said. "I didn't try to disrespect anybody."
He said he and Renney parted as friends.
"Nothing bad," he said. "That's from my standpoint. I hope from Tom's, too."
Morning skate: With Paul Ranger back, Jamie Heward will be scratched. Melrose said it came down to skating ability with Janne Niskala. "Niskala jumps into the play, can play on the power play a little bit. Just a little bit of a better skater," Melrose said. ... It was unclear if Rick DiPietro (knee) would start in goal for the Islanders. He came off the ice first after the morning skate but would not say if he would play. He came off the ice first in Jersey and was the backup. ... Melrose said he wants to use Ranger about 18 minutes. "But that could turn into 28," Melrose said. ... Other scratches are David Koci, Jason Ward and Ryan Craig (groin).