November 17, 2013

Isles Notebook: Ness fitting in nicely on blue line

By Christian Arnold

Aaron Ness scored his first career NHL goal for the Isles in a home game against the L.A. Kings this past week. (Getty Images)

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Since joining the Islanders earlier this month, Aaron Ness has not missed a beat.

Through his first six games this season, the 23-year-old has registered a goal and an assist for two points. The goal, which came on Thursday against Los Angeles, was the first of his NHL career.

“It’s always good to get that first one off your back,” Ness following Saturday’s morning skate. “Now, it’s hopefully try to get two and three and as many as possible.”

The rookie defenseman has been averaging about 20 shifts per game and has looked comfortable during them. He has even made some big defensive plays during his time on the ice.

Ness said he believes he’s grown a little bit since being recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.

“I think every game you play, you grow,” he said. “You learn some more things, you learn something new. I mean, all these guys have been great to me, too. Showing just little things along the way. Hopefully it continues to get better and better here and just continue to improve.”

This recent call-up isn’t the Minnesota native’s first time wearing the Islanders’ orange and blue. During the 2011-12 season, he spent nine games with the big club. Ness did not register a point in that span, but he did prove that he was up to the challenge.

Having that previous experience has proved useful now.

“Any time you get any NHL games at all, you get to see the size and skill that some of these guys have,” Ness said.” Any time you play and have prior experience, it’s going to help in the future.”

Ness’ current success has not surprised many, especially teammate Thomas Hickey. Hickey said, “He’s been really good.”

“I like Ness’ game a lot,” Hickey said. “I’ve played against him for a few years in the minors and he moves the puck quick. He makes smart hockey decisions and jumps in at the right time, so it’s great to see him get that first goal.

“He’s just playing his game and it’s looking good.”

Week in Review

Nov. 12: Islanders 3 vs. Predators 1

The Islanders snapped their four game losing streak thanks to two goals scored in the first period and one in the second. John Tavares, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Kyle Okposo all recorded goals. Kevin Poulin nearly had his first career NHL shutout, but Patrick Hornqvist scored with 5:30 remaining in the game to squash his bid.  

Nov. 14: Kings 3 @ Islanders 2

A three-goal period by the Los Angeles Kings sunk the Islanders, who held a 2-0 lead going into the third period. Casey Cizikas scored his first goal of the year and Aaron Ness scored his first career NHL goal, but it was not enough to keep the Kings at bay. L.A. rallied to score two goals and then, with 1:27 left in the game, Tyler Toffoli scored the game-winner.

Nov. 16: Islanders 5 Vs. Red Wings 4 (OT)

The two teams traded leads four times. With just 42 seconds left in a 4-3 game, Pavel Datsyuk scored the equalizer for Detroit. Frans Nielsen was the only Islander to score in the shootout and Kevin Poulin stopped all three Red Wing shooters. Evgeni Nabokov initially got the start, but left 4:12 into the game due to a groin injury.

Three Stars

First Star: Kevin Poulin (2.55 goals against average, .909 save percentage)

Second Star: Casey Cizikas (2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points)

Third Star: Aaron Ness (1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points)

Week Ahead

The Islanders hit the road for a three-game road trip, which starts north of the boarder in Toronto. The Maple Leafs (12-7-1) are 2-2-1 in their last five games and will be without Nazem Kadri, who is serving the final game of his three-game suspension. The Islanders will then travel to Pittsburgh to take on Sidney Crosby and the Penguins (12-8-0) on Friday. They will finish off the trip on Saturday against the struggling Philadelphia Flyers (7-10-2). 

Twitter: @CA_NYHockey