Josh Bailey's move pays dividends for Islanders
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Bailey has four goals in those four games after scoring six in his first 60 games of the season as a center. He's now producing offense on a pace more in line with what team and player expect from the creative Bailey, whose role has been that of a third-line center assigned to check one of the opposing team's top lines.
"I didn't feel I played all that bad [at center] -- the production just wasn't there," Bailey said after practice Tuesday at the Coliseum. "You're expected to contribute points, and I expect that from myself, no matter what role you're in. It's weird the way things work. Sometimes, you get some breaks and it feels like the puck's going in for you."
Bailey's attempt to be a playmaking center was a bit stymied, with most of his time spent between physical winger Matt Martin and veteran Brian Rolston. The best segment of this season for Bailey, who signed a two-year, $2.1-million deal on the eve of training camp, was when rookie David Ullstrom was in Rolston's spot. So perhaps it's no surprise that Bailey and Ullstrom reuniting four games ago, with Frans Nielsen in the middle, has produced some good results.
"Bails has the ability to pull up and make a play, so it really makes room for me, too," said Nielsen, who has six goals and five assists in his last 15 games. "And Ully creates some room with his speed and the way he plays. We've been pretty good together so far."
Left out of the equation is Michael Grabner, who missed the two weekend wins with the flu. Grabner was a fixture on Nielsen's left until last week, when his run of one goal in 18 games got him moved off that line.
Grabner practiced but Jack Capuano is usually loath to change things up when the Islanders are winning.
"The guys had two good wins, so if [Capuano] doesn't want to change anything, that's up to him," Grabner said. "I want to be in there and help the team."
Notes & quotes: Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau sat out practice, with Capuano calling the absences "maintenance days." Moulson needed 10 stitches to close a gash on his chin from an unpenalized high stick by Devils D Bryce Salvador; Parenteau got whacked on the hand by Ilya Kovalchuk on Sunday but seemed fine when he took a quick skate after practice . . . Also on the ice following practice: G Rick DiPietro (sports hernia) and G Al Montoya (upper body), neither of whom are close to returning.