Isles' Bailey unable to get untracked yet

The Islanders' Josh Bailey skates against the Tampa The Islanders' Josh Bailey skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Dec. 22, 2010) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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During the Islanders' fruitless two-game Florida swing, Josh Bailey was asked if he's found his role yet, six games into his fourth NHL season.

"Well," he began, a little hesitantly, "I think I'm just trying to support the other guys and provide some depth on this team, and when I get my chances, to contribute any way I can."

His answer might give a clue as to why he hasn't been able to find any traction for himself through the first two weeks.

Blake Comeau, who returned from a two-game benching, worked on the left side with Bailey and a rotating cast of right wings -- Brian Rolston, who had been penciled into that spot, missed the game to be with wife Jennifer in New Jersey for the birth of their son -- and Bailey and Comeau, who were in similar spots with protracted contract negotiations this summer, have found themselves similarly lost among Jack Capuano's forwards.

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John Tavares, who scored his sixth goal and had an assist in the 4-2 loss to the Panthers on Saturday, has carried the offense, along with linemates Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau. Frans Nielsen, Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo have not been as productive but still form an exciting trio.

And at the other end, Marty Reasoner, Jay Pandolfo and Matt Martin have had some good moments as a faceoff-winning, forechecking fourth line, Martin in particular. All of those nine forwards have defined power-play and penalty-kill roles as well, as does Rolston.

But that has left Bailey and Comeau to try to turn third-line minutes into something noteworthy. Neither has a point. Even worse for Capuano, Bailey has no points and only four shots on goal in six games; Comeau, who scored 24 goals a season ago, committed a few sins of overhandling the puck Saturday and didn't generate much.

"For Josh, I think he understands that when the opportunity is there, he's got to get pucks to the net," Capuano said. "I don't worry much about Josh -- he cares and he wants to work hard."

The other problem facing Bailey and Comeau is getting minutes against more traditional checking lines. That means bigger forwards who can muscle guys off the puck, which takes away from Bailey's playmaking ability.

Nino Niederreiter has skated on Long Island the past few days and soon might be ready to make his season debut. Someone has to come out of the lineup when that happens. Fair or not, considering the playing time they've been allotted, Bailey and Comeau have not distinguished themselves.

"Ultimately, that's out of my control," Bailey said of lineup decisions. "What I can control is how I play. I'm not focused on the results."

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