Islanders left wing Anders Lee sets before a face off...

Islanders left wing Anders Lee sets before a face off against the Coyotes in the third period of an NHL game at UBS Arena on Oct. 17. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

 RALEIGH, N.C. -— Anders Lee’s 700-game NHL career, solely with the Islanders, and his identity as a power forward have been fueled by his tenacity around the crease. At his best, the captain’s hand-eye coordination allows him to swat in loose pucks.

  Now 33, Lee works to keep that skill acute more than ever.

 “Honestly, it’s just reps,” Lee told Newsday before the Islanders played the middle match of a challenging three-game road trip against the Hurricanes on Thursday night at PNC Arena.

 “A lot of touches after practice. It’s little drills I do off the ice. There’s eye training and brain training that’s available. But it’s a lot of touches, it’s a lot of reps so when you’re getting one in the ribs and the puck is coming at you, it’s almost second nature.”

 Lee reache his milestone 700th game — with his team-best consecutive games streak reaching 134 — with four goals and two assists in his first 21 games.

 That left Lee on pace for just 16 goals this season, which would be his fewest in a full season since he had 15 goals and 21 assists in 76 games in 2014-15. He topped out at 40 goals in 2017-18, but he hasn’t exceeded 28 goals since then, reaching that mark last season for the third time. This season, he’s been relegated to the Islanders’ second power-play unit as a net-front presence and entered Thursday with one man-advantage goal.

 “When things aren’t going well, you start to think about it more,” said Lee, who had three goals in a four-game stretch before the Islanders lost a 1-0 shootout to the Flyers at UBS Arena on Saturday then opened the road trip with a 5-4 loss to the Devils on Tuesday. “But the process is what gets you through it. It’s what allows you to continue to have success. Go out and play a good hockey game and things are going to happen.”

  Lee’s recent production earned him another chance to skate on top-line center Bo Horvat’s left wing along with Mathew Barzal against the Devils and Hurricanes. He sprung Barzal for a breakaway goal in the Islanders’ last game.

 But Lee, in the fifth season of a seven-year, $49 million deal, said he understands the expectation is for him to score more goals. And he welcomes it.

  “I don’t mind that,” Lee said of his 40-goal season setting a bar. “That was a season where my touches were just going in at a higher rate. I feel like I have 40 touches in me a year that if you miss a few, good saves on a few, bounces, it turns into less. That’s a bar that’s still something I try to get to. I think there’s enough quantity and quality throughout a season to make that happen.”

  Whether Lee ever reaches 1,000 games in an Islander jersey is debatable. If he plays every game over the course of his current contract, he’ll still be 76 games shy of that milestone. And he would need a new deal heading into his age-36 season.

 But those are down-the-road concerns. For now, Lee still commands deep respect among his teammates as the Islanders’ unquestioned leader.

 For instance, when he got his nose and lip bloodied by the Devils’ Brendan Smith in a third-period fight. Lee challenged the daunting Smith after absorbing a hard hit he later called “clean” and blamed himself for skating with his head down.

 “I loved it,” Matt Martin, the Islanders’ resident tough guy, told Newsday. “Leesy has always had a little bit of that in his game. He isn’t afraid to mix it up.”

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