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Islanders’ Anders Lee has 31 goals after slow start to season

New York Islanders forward Anders Lee (27) skates

New York Islanders forward Anders Lee (27) skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. Credit: AP / Jeffrey T. Barnes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It is impossible to resist doing the math and wondering — whether you are a fan or a journalist or a friend of Anders Lee:

Where would he be right now if he had scored goals at the beginning of the season at the same pace he has for the rest of the season?

“Yeah, my buddies will laugh about it,” he said after the Islanders practiced Monday in advance of Tuesday night’s game against the Predators. “But it’s crazy, it really is.”

Let’s see: Sidney Crosby of the Penguins led the NHL in goals entering Monday night’s games with 43, and he was the only player in the league over 40.

Lee has 31 after scoring two in Sunday’s victory over the Sabres, which tied him for 17th. But wait: He had only one goal — one! — in his first 18 games. Since then, he has been at a roughly 40-goal pace.

“Things have really turned around,” he said. “It’s one of those things where if you believe in yourself, you can work through stuff like that, but then you have to do it . . . I’m extremely grateful. It’s pretty cool.”

Lee, 26, scored 25 goals two seasons ago before falling to 15 last season, so the Islanders knew he had this in him. They hope he has it in him on a consistent basis, whether or not their long-shot playoff hopes come true this season.

“He’s definitely capable of being a consistent 30-goal scorer, in my opinion,” said Josh Bailey, who has spent the majority of the season on a line with Lee and John Tavares, a grouping that has served Lee well.

“We just fed off each other,” Lee said. “I think we all benefited . . . Things just started going my way and our way as a line, so it was a combination of a lot of things.”

Coach Doug Weight dismissed skeptics of Lee’s game. “They say, ‘Well, he gets all the goals around the net,’ ” Weight said. “I have been around the net [as a player]. It’s hard to score those goals, and he makes it look easy. He’s got a great stick and he’s got the fire in his belly to get to those areas.

“He’s strong and I think his game has grown so much more than the 31 goals. It’s a great feat in this league, but he’s also so reliable defensively. He’s a really smart hockey player . . . He’s just always in good position.”

Lee said being in good position largely is a function of being in his third full NHL season.

“You start to figure things out and always know where to be, and you get those little bounces that you might not get other times from lack of experience,” he said. “My goal will always be to repeat this. But it’s going to be hard. It’s only going to get harder.”

Notes & quotes: Weight said he probably will dress seven defensemen Tuesday because of Shane Prince’s ongoing problems with a high ankle sprain . . . Weight on Connor Jones’ NHL debut Sunday: “He’s frisky, for lack of a better term. He plays the game hard . . . He’s a disturber.”

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