Islanders' Josh Bailey prepared to shift around
Josh Bailey got a taste of playing with John Tavares at the most important time in either player's career during last spring's playoff series with the Penguins. After a lackluster Game 1, Jack Capuano put Bailey with Tavares and Brad Boyes and put Matt Moulson with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo.
The jarring shift helped the Isles get moving and make that series competitive. It also allowed Bailey some history on which to fall back for stretches like this week, when Capuano shuffled his training camp lines and moved Bailey to the right side with Tavares and Moulson and moved Michael Grabner into the left-wing spot with Nielsen and Okposo.
"It gives you that added confidence that you've played together before," Bailey said. "I thought we played well in the playoffs, created lots of chances -- would've liked to put couple more in the back of the net. But all in all, I think it went pretty well."
That switch happened on Tuesday. There was another tweak Wednesday, when Okposo sat out practice with an eye injury suffered on Saturday night in Brooklyn; Okposo practiced Sunday and Tuesday, but may need a few days to rest after taking a stick to his eye from Devils defenseman Jon Merrill that went unpenalized.
Anders Lee joined the group at Nassau Coliseum to skate with Grabner and Nielsen, but that may be temporary. Capuano seems inclined to see what Bailey can add to the top-line duo in a spot that Pierre-Marc Bouchard occupied at the start of camp; that line didn't produce much at even strength in two preseason games, so Capuano decided to see what else he could come up with.
"You could see someone else there the next day," Capuano said. "I just want to see how they go about practice and what kind of chemistry they have. We didn't score any goals the last two games. We just want to get it right by the fourth of October."
Capuano also reunited the longtime defense pair of Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic this week after trying Brian Strait with Hamonic to open camp. Until the season begins, there's still lots of options.
"Every day's a new day," Bailey said. "No matter if the lines change tomorrow, you have to have the same mindset. We all have to."