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Brock Nelson's line helps achieve scoring balance for Islanders

Anthony Beauvillier of the Islanders celebrates his second-period

Anthony Beauvillier of the Islanders celebrates his second-period goal against the Sabres with teammates Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey at Nassau Coliseum on March 4. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Constructing lines can often be like a jigsaw puzzle.

Sometimes, the pieces must fit in just a certain way.

Which is why Islanders coach Barry Trotz keeps coming back to using Anthony Beauvillier on Brock Nelson’s left wing along with Josh Bailey. It’s the best fit toward achieving Trotz’s desired four-line balance.

The trio was back together for a third straight game as the Islanders continued a season-high, six-game homestand against the Flyers on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum. The second line combined for two goals and three assists in Thursday’s 8-4 win over the Capitals to open the homestand.

"I have a lot of trust in Nellie’s game over the course of time that I’ve been here," Trotz said before Saturday’s game. "And when his line with him and Bails have been together and Beau is over there, that line has given us really good minutes. And when they don’t, it’s noticeable. It’s noticeable to our group. It’s not noticeable to the production and success of the team."

The two-way trust Trotz has in Nelson’s line helps with his forward rotation.

Mathew Barzal’s top line with Jordan Eberle and Leo Komarov, subbing for lost-for-the-season captain Anders Lee, combined for five goals and four assists on Thursday. Rookie Oliver Wahlstrom has scored nine goals on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line. And the identity-setting fourth line of Casey Cizikas between Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck have combined for 16 goals and 17 assists.

"They’re an important ingredient to everything," Trotz said of Nelson’s line. "They can play well defensively. They play well offensively. That’s a good combination to have for our group. We have a grinding group in Casey. An offensive group in Barzy. And Pager has some weight and some skill on it."

Trotz certainly relied on that line in the postseason as the Islanders reached the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 1993. Beauvillier had nine goals and five assists in the 22 games, Bailey had two goals and 18 assists and Nelson notched nine goals and nine assists.

It set a high standard for the trio.

"The last few [games] has been good," Nelson said. "We’re moving. We’re making plays. We had some possession and also some turnovers where we’ve been able to create some chances. We’d like to contribute offensively every night. But being responsible, whether it’s the matchup thing or a different challenge, we want to go out there and contribute."

Nelson, given an "A" as an alternate captain with Lee injured, and Bailey, who entered Saturday’s game one point shy of reaching 500 for his career, have been constants on the second line this season. It’s been Beauvillier who has had the up-and-down season.

He missed nine games from Jan. 26-Feb. 15 with a lower-body injury. He went seven games without a point from March 7-18 and Trotz eventually took him off Nelson’s line and used him with Pageau for four games from March 20-27.

Beauvillier had a goal in each of those four games before rejoining Nelson’s line.

"We’re so deep up front, especially down the middle," Beauvillier said. "Playing with Brock or Pager, it’s pretty similar. Two predictable guys. I love playing with Pager. I love playing with Nellie and Bails. It doesn’t matter who you play with, it’s about what you do and what you bring to the team.

"Playing with Pager might have helped me find my game back a little bit."

Included in Beauvillier’s goal streak were back-to-back overtime winners in Philadelphia and Boston.

"Sometimes, those stretches happen," Beauvillier said. "You just want to take advantage of them."

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