Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
Even as the Islanders have pumped some life into their season over the last month, Josh Bailey is still searching for a way to reanimate his own lost year.
Bailey entered last night's game at Philadelphia without a goal in 34 games, far and away the longest drought of his six-year career. He has never been a prolific goal scorer, but the organization thought Bailey turned a corner last season when he came out of a knee injury to start the shortened season late and took the initiative to start shooting more.
He finished last season with 11 goals in 38 games, with 76 shots on net and 11 games in which he had at least three shots on goal. Gone, it seemed, were the seasons when Bailey would barely crack 100 shots in a full season.
And he started this season the same way, with 21 shots and four goals in the first 10 games. But since? No goals, just 31 shots in 34 games and only two games in which he's had three shots on goal.
"Of course it weighs on you," Bailey said. "At dinner, at home, at the rink. You have to try and focus on getting better in the future. There's nothing you can do about the past."
Bailey is averaging 14:46 of ice time per game, lowest of any season he's had in the NHL. Having just signed a five-year, $16.5-million deal July 5, there are limited options for the Islanders, given that no teams would surrender much of anything in a trade for someone in such a slump.
"There's been games I've struggled and games where I thought I played well and haven't been rewarded," he said. "I've got to think something's going to go in for me at some point."
<b.tavares on="" strome:="" he'll="" be="" back<="" b=""><br></b.tavares></p><p>John Tavares had only a few minutes to talk to Ryan Strome before Strome's departure on Wednesday in Tampa, but the Islanders captain knows his young friend and fellow talent won't be gone for long.</p><p>"He knows he did some good things here, but he also knows he didn't produce to the level where he made that decision [to send him down] a difficult one," Tavares said. "We talked a lot while he was here. I think he'd admit there were times he was a little slow to react to plays, and that's normal. Those are things that I went through when I first got here."</p><p>Strome's confidence didn't suffer for long. He had two assists in his first game back with Bridgeport on Friday, giving him 35 points in 24 games. He's back in the top five in scoring in the AHL.</p><p>"He was in pretty good spirits when he left," Tavares said. "He's a smart guy and he's a hard worker. He's going to use what he learned here and when he gets back, he'll be that much better."</p><p><b>No payback for Gudas, but not forgotten either</b><br></p><p>No one exacted any legal (or other) revenge on Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas on Thursday for his takedown of John Tavares back on Dec. 17, a play that Tavares was upset about and led to him missing a game on Dec. 28.</p><p>"We were down [1-0] pretty early on, so even though you might want to fight, you can't risk putting the team in a bigger hole," Matt Martin said. "You just want to make sure you finish your checks on him, remind him that we know what he did and we're not happy with it. And it's still in the back of your mind for next time."</p><p>Next time is Mar. 27 in Tampa.</p> <p></p>