Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau search for scoring answers
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
That question could be asked about any number of Islanders forwards. Entering Saturday night's game with the Capitals, there were 13 forwards in the league who played at least eight games and had no points. The Islanders have three of them: Bailey, Comeau and Jay Pandolfo.
Pandolfo, like most of the forwards who haven't recorded a point yet, is a role player. Bailey and Comeau, though, have gotten very regular minutes at even strength and the lack of production is maddening.
"I feel like I've played better of late, I'm just snakebitten, like a few guys," Comeau said. "I've done a good job of not looking at any stats, any highlights. It's been tough."
Jack Capuano wants to see his forwards throw more pucks on net and get more bodies to the area around the net, something he felt Comeau wasn't doing after the first week of the season. After a 24-goal season in 2010-11, Comeau was a healthy scratch for two games. It was Capuano's message that he wanted to see a more straight-ahead, physical style from a player who, when he plays that way, is a force.
But Comeau was doing more circling as he came into the offensive zone than driving forward. By staying to the outside he left his linemates caught in deep if the puck was turned over, or left easy plays for opposing defensemen with Comeau locked along the side boards.
In the last two games, Comeau has done what he's been asked. He had seven shots on goal in the losses to San Jose and Winnipeg after recording one shot in his first six games.
"I think I know how I need to play to be successful," Comeau said.
Bailey is a bit tougher case. He sees himself as a playmaker, not a drive-the-net, greasy-goal kind of guy; he's been stuck in a third-line role since the start of the season, though, and not getting many opportunities to show his skills, resulting in just six shots on goal through 10 games.
Bailey, Comeau and Brian Rolston, a line that was broken up Saturday night, had a golden scoring chance three on two on Thursday. Comeau, driving the right wing, fed Bailey, the trailer. Instead of shooting from the slot, Bailey slid a pass back to Comeau, who wasn't expecting it, and his sharp-angle shot dribbled off Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and wide.
"[Pavelec] was challenging [the shooter] all night, so I tried to make a play," Bailey said. "I feel like if I'm just out there looking to shoot, it takes away from what I do best."
Bailey began Saturday's game on the fourth line, with Pandolfo and Matt Martin, leaving him with even fewer minutes and more forecheck-oriented wingers to work with.
Nino Niederreiter's AHL debut on Wednesday was a solid one, as he hit two goalposts while skating on the right side with Jeremy Colliton and David Ullstrom. Ullstrom, the 22-year-old center, is playing with confidence for the Sound Tigers and has five goals and an assist in 10 games.
Another forward to watch given the Islanders' struggles is Tim Wallace, the 27-year-old formerly in the Penguins system who had a mediocre training camp and struggled at the start of the season in Bridgeport. Wallace had a hat trick on Wednesday in a 4-3 overtime win over the Connecticut Whale, giving him nine points in 10 games.
Plus: The Isles' 2.48 goals-against average was ninth in the league entering Saturday's game.
Minus: The league-worst 1.80 goals-for average leaves the Isles' goaltending good, but fairly irrelevant without goal support.