LAS VEGAS — Anthony Beauvillier left the Islanders twice in a seven-day span for Bridgeport a few weeks back. When he was sent down the first time, he was lost, a young player without a set role. After returning for good on Jan. 13, he’s found a role. Boy, has he ever.
Beauvillier entered Thursday night’s game against the Golden Knights as one of the hottest goal-scorers in the NHL in the past 18 days. Since Jan. 7, no one in the league had more goals than Beauvillier, who had eight in a seven-game span.
Before this run, he had 13 total in the first 97 games of his NHL career.
“It’s kind of hard to tell what’s the trigger point of the confidence,” Beauvillier said Thursday morning. “It’s hard to build. When I was struggling earlier in the season, I was thinking a lot. Now I just feel that I go out and play. I’m having fun. It’s about feeling good about yourself, the little plays you make that can lead to a scoring chance or a goal. It’s about knowing you can make those plays, you can compete against anyone. It’s all in the head.”
After a two-game demotion, Beauvillier came back up in the week before the Islanders’ five-day break because Andrew Ladd was sidelined. He went into Ladd’s spot on the left side with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle and scored a goal in a 5-4 shootout win over the Devils.
He then went back to Bridgeport for the bye week, played one more AHL game and returned to face the Rangers. He scored two more goals in that game, then another against the Canadiens in Montreal, close to his hometown of Sorel-Tracy. Then he had back-to-back two-goal games in the first two legs of a three-game trip that ended Thursday night.
“I think it is a little surprise,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “I don’t think you see guys go down and do this. Everyone knows their circumstances, whether it’s a two-way contract, entry-level, you’re losing some ice time or you’re not contributing — a kid his age, it’s probably always been in the back of his mind. ‘I don’t ever want to go down.’ I think it just deters from his energy level, the way he plays the game. [The demotion] was almost a relief. You could see from talking to him.
“Credit to Beau. It fits right into how we feel about him, his character and why he made the team at such a young age. He’s pretty mature. I think he got down there, tackled it and got those demons out of his head quickly. You don’t see that a lot. It generally takes five, 10, 15 games, sometimes a year for kids to come back up and be a different player. Thankfully for us, he’s a mature kid that got it out of his head, wanted to go play hockey and has that confidence.”
Notes & quotes: Josh Bailey and John Tavares will head to Tampa on Friday for All-Star Weekend. For Bailey, it’s a family affair. His parents, his brother and some other relatives and friends were in Vegas for Thursday’s game and will fly to Florida, where Bailey and his wife, Meg, will host numerous family members for his first All-Star Game in his 10th NHL season . . . Sebastian Aho and Tanner Fritz were selected for the AHL All-Star Game this weekend in Utica but cannot participate because both are on the Islanders’ roster. “To get picked, you must have done something good,” Aho said. “It’s a great feeling. I was looking forward to it, but it’s not the worst thing not to go — it means I’m doing something good here, too. But it’s nice to be selected.” Bridgeport goalie Christopher Gibson and defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel were picked to replace Aho and Fritz . . . Casey Cizikas (hand) and Johnny Boychuk (lower body) skated Thursday, but neither was ready to return.