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Cory Conacher making a mark with Islanders

Islanders left wing Cory Conacher falls back after

Islanders left wing Cory Conacher falls back after being punched by Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly despite the efforts of linesman Derek Nansen during the third period of an NHL preseason hockey game in Boston, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Credit: AP / Elise Amendola

Cory Conacher is a guy you root for.

The 24-year-old made it to the NHL in 2012-13 as an undrafted, undersized (5-9, possibly in skates) free agent who has suffered from Type 1 diabetes since age 8. He nearly made the Lightning out of training camp in 2011-12 but went to the AHL and earned MVP honors with 39 goals and 80 points for Norfolk.

He made an impact in 2012-13 with the Lightning and then the Senators after a trade but was waived by Ottawa last season and finished the year a free agent again after closing out the season with the Sabres.

He signed with the Islanders on the first day of free agency into a seemingly open field of forwards; the next day, the Isles added Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, making things difficult for Conacher before training camp even began.

After a couple of so-so preseason performances, Conacher showed the best of what he can bring to an NHL team on Tuesday in Boston. He had a goal, helped produce another with a good screen in front of the opposing net and generally was a pain in the rear to the Bruins.

"With me being a smaller guy, you always have to go in with that chip on your shoulder," Conacher said after the Islanders' 5-3 win.

Conacher had the benefit of starting Tuesday night on the left side with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, though Jack Capuano swapped out Okposo for Cal Clutterbuck about six minutes into the second. Conacher got some net-front power-play time in addition to first-line minutes and made the most of his opportunity.

He most likely won't start the season there if he makes it onto the final roster, but he helped his cause on Tuesday.

"Johnny, Kyle, Clutter, those are easy guys to play with, you don't have to force things as much," Conacher said. "What I need to remind myself is to play that way no matter who I'm with. Just try and focus on being the best player I can be regardless of the situation."

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