Michael Grabner has become accustomed to his role, which is whatever spot Jack Capuano needs to fill.
Grabner's speed and ability to create scoring chances with just a few feet of space makes him well-suited to Capuano playing him on any line. Grabner, who began training camp skating with Peter Regin and the now-injured Cal Clutterbuck, reunited with longtime penalty killing partner Frans Nielsen and Colin McDonald in last night's 6-4 preseason win over the Predators at Nassau Coliseum.
"I've showed that I can play with different players, so I'm just trying to do my job out there," Grabner said. "It doesn't matter, everyone we have is a good player, so you build up some chemistry with different guys. It's nice to know I can go out there with Frans, Zeeker [Casey Cizikas], Mac, anyone really. It's not that big of a deal."
Grabner gets his opportunities and his goals without needing much ice time or any power-play time -- his 16 goals on an average of 14:47 per game was better use of ice time than any player in the league save Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov. Even Grabner's seeming inability to convert many of his breakaway chances means he's still generating those chances.
"I think he's played real well," Capuano said. "Not only has he had opportunities with the puck, but he's played real well defensively, the PK's been good. He's had some chemistry with Nielsen in the past, so we'll see tonight how that plays out."
After his 34-goal rookie season in 2010-11, Grabner tailed off in 2011-12, scoring a respectable 20 goals but seeing his ice time decrease as the season went on. His bounce-back last season came, in his mind, from his attention to defensive detail, not from a push to score more.
"After the first year, the 30-whatever goals I had, there was a lot of pressure to score the next year and I only got to 20," he said. "I think for me, just play my role, be good defensively, be good on the PK and the chances will come. I just take care of the stuff I need to do and I get chances."
Notes & quotes: John Tavares had two goals and rookie Brock Nelson had two assists in the Isles' win over Nashville. Matt Moulson and Travis Hamonic had three assists. Lubomir Visnovsky, Colin McDonald, Matt Donovan and Josh Bailey had the other goals.