As the Islanders search through their glut of forwards to find four solid trios, at least a few good pairings have emerged. There's John Tavares and Kyle Okposo on the top line for certain, the newcomers Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin on a possible second line and Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner, old running mates, perhaps ticketed for a third line.
But another pairing hit the ice at the Coliseum on Wednesday that could throw a good wrinkle into any already laid plans. Brock Nelson and Anders Lee are good friends and roommates at this camp and they could potentially be two-thirds of a second line that would be an unexpected situation from when camp began last week.
"It's great to start that chemistry early in the year so you can set the tone a little bit," said Lee, who skated with Nelson and Ryan Strome against the Hurricanes on Wednesday night. "You do the right things and I think it'll come together for us."
Lee and Nelson skated in Monday's preseason opener in St. John's, Newfoundland, with prospect Sebastian Collberg on their right. Nelson had a goal and assist and was the Isles' best player, according to a few of the staff observers on hand. For a player thought to be ticketed for the wing thanks to a deep, experienced group of centers, Nelson could play his way into bumping someone like Grabovski to the wing at the start of the season -- Grabovski skated Wednesday night with Tavares and Okposo.
"Like I said before camp began, I just want to go out and have the strongest camp possible and the rest is out of my control," Nelson said. "You can't read too much into anything."
Lee and Nelson didn't play together much over Lee's 22-game stint at the end of last season, but they have formed a nice bond through the years of competing in college to Islanders prospect camps to now.
"You've got a guy who's always in the right place, it's so easy to play with Brock," Lee said. "He's always got your back in all three zones. Johnny and Frans, we're so tough down the middle and I'd put Brock right up there with those guys."
Notes & quotes: The Islanders lost, 4-2, to Carolina. Jaroslav Halak (19 saves) played the full 60 minutes, allowing three power-play goals. Casey Cizikas' shorthanded goal early in the third cut the Isles' deficit to 3-1. Strome scored with 1:27 left. The Isles face the Devils tomorrow night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.