New York Islanders' Josh Bailey, center, stretches for the puck...

New York Islanders' Josh Bailey, center, stretches for the puck past Boston Bruins' David Krejci (46) and Milan Lucic during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game in Bridgeport, Conn. on Saturday. (Oct. 1, 2011) Credit: AP

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Once Josh Bailey agreed to a contract -- roughly eight hours before the official start of training camp -- things still were a bit unsettled for the 2008 first-round pick.

After three up-and-down seasons, Bailey is still trying to find his place in the Islanders' lineup. Is he a top-line scorer? A two-way center who can be counted upon for key defensive-zone faceoffs and penalty-killing time? Some of both?

For now, the search is ongoing. He turns 22 Sunday, still with a lot of NHL hockey ahead of him. And he is smart enough to know that, on a roster that is fairly well stocked with skilled scorers, he needs to do a little bit of everything to earn ice time.

"I pretty much knew that last year, too," Bailey said before Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Bruins at Webster Bank Arena, the Islanders' AHL affiliate's home. "The best teams have that depth and you have to make the most of what you get. I came into camp with the mindset of earning my spot and trying to prove to the coaching staff that I can do whatever's asked of me."

In his fourth preseason game out of the five the Islanders have played this camp, Bailey centered a third line with veteran checking winger Jay Pandolfo and rookie plugger Casey Cizikas. When Saturday comes and the regular season begins, the linemates may be different, but Bailey definitely is locked into a centering role behind the John Tavares and Frans Nielsen lines, which have been set since they both thrived down the stretch last season.

Bailey played in this arena for three weeks last November and December, sent down to regain some confidence after a rough start. It was his first time in the minors. He finished his NHL season with 11 goals and 17 assists in 70 games, a bit of a regression to the bumps of his rookie season.

He did get some valuable time on the penalty kill, playing an aggressive style that coach Jack Capuano likes and that Bailey, who nearly scored a shorthanded goal Friday against the Devils, can embrace.

"I've always had those offensive instincts, so you can use those as a penalty-killer -- you know what the other guys are trying to do," he said.

Capuano is a very positive coach. He has liked Bailey's effort this camp despite some struggles to get pucks on net.

"I think Josh will succeed in whatever role we put him in," Capuano said. "And he'll put up numbers for us. He works hard and he's willing to do whatever it takes to win hockey games."

Notes & quotes:Al Montoya stopped all 14 shots he faced in 28:40 and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 17 of 20 shots in his half a game . . . John Tavares and Marty Reasoner had the Islanders' goals.

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