Islanders center Brock Nelson skates against the Washington Capitals in...

Islanders center Brock Nelson skates against the Washington Capitals in the first period of an NHL hockey game at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Before training camp began, Brock Nelson was being discussed as a possible wing for John Tavares and Ryan Strome seemed to be primed for a battle to earn a job at a crowded center position.

Nelson indeed is playing wing with Tavares and Kyle Okposo. And Strome is a center. But Saturday night was the first time Nelson and Strome filled those roles, showing that anticipating spots and jobs is a waste of time for a couple of young players.

"I don't really care where I'm at," said Nelson, who as a center entered Saturday night's game against the Sharks leading the Islanders with six goals, three of them on the power play. "After you play both spots enough, you learn which areas are important and what you need to do. There's times you're caught or get switched up anyway and you're in that center spot, so it's not a big deal."

The same is true for Strome, who spent the first 10 games as Nelson's right wing and produced seven assists in his first eight games, all of them at even strength. He has been a center most of his career, but his move to the wing didn't seem to change his game too much.

Saturday night, Strome went back to center, between Anders Lee and Matt Martin. If Martin seems an unlikely addition to that line, Jack Capuano was quick to note that Strome had some success late last season playing between Martin and fellow grinder Colin McDonald.

"You hate to move one of the best two-way centers in Brock Nelson, but we need to get our offense going five-on-five," Capuano said. "You have to score at least a couple goals every night to win in this league."

Nelson has been doing that, particularly as the Islander in front of the opposing net on the power play. It's not a traditional line situation, but he has had plenty of power-play time with Tavares and Okposo to learn at least some of their tendencies.

"You can see where Johnny wants the puck, where he goes to get it," Nelson said. "I'm just trying to create space for Johnny and Okie, let them do what they do."

Strome isn't too worried about his shuffled position or linemates. "You've just got to go play. It shouldn't matter what position you're in, who you're playing with," he said. "We've had good shifts, good periods as a team, but it's got to be consistent, the full 60 minutes. That goes for everyone."

Notes & quotes: Josh Bailey has seen quick improvement in the strength and flexibility in his broken left hand and hopes to be cleared shortly for more on-ice work as he tries to return inside of two weeks from his injury. He likely will have an X-ray Monday or Tuesday in Anaheim. "I've really noticed a difference the last few days," Bailey said. "A lot of the bruising is gone. It's great to see that it's gotten better so quickly." . . . Defenseman Matt Carkner, on injured reserve since the season began, had surgery last week to repair a herniated disc in his back and likely is done for the season. Carkner is in the final year of a three-year, $4.5-million contract.

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