RALEIGH, N.C. — The group of players stretching in the PNC Arena hallway started to make their way back to the Islanders’ dressing room to don their gear for Friday’s morning skate. Suddenly, a cheer could be heard on the ice level as a smiling Josh Bailey walked through.
His teammates were saluting Mr. 1,000.
“It’s a special night,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, who made his Islanders debut in 2016. “To play 1,000 games in one jersey is impressive. He’s been such a leader here. Coming up, I always looked up to him and the professional he’s been. A great guy off the ice, a great player on the ice.”
Bailey, the longest-tenured Islander, finally reached the milestone against the Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Friday night. His march toward 1,000 was temporarily halted when coach Lane Lambert made him a healthy scratch for last Saturday night’s road loss to the Lightning.
Bailey, 33, trails only Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier (1,123) and Denis Potvin (1,060) on the Islanders’ list of games played. He is the 73rd player in NHL history to skate in 1,000 games with one franchise.
“I’m trying to approach it like any other day,” Bailey said. “It means a lot to me. A lot of people to thank along the way.”
The Islanders will honor Bailey with a pregame ceremony before facing the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche on Saturday night at UBS Arena.
“It’s fun to see it,” said Brock Nelson, Bailey’s teammate since 2013. “We have a group that’s been a tight-knit group for a long time. It’s a special milestone, especially that he’s able to do it all with one franchise. I think that makes it even a little bit sweeter. I think that’s a well-deserved recognition for a guy who just goes about his business maybe more so than anybody. Down to earth. Just a good guy in the room.”
“It’s been great to get to know him on a personal level because I’ve always, for the longest time, played against him,” said Zach Parise, who played his 1,000th game in 2020 with the Wild and also is a former Devil. “Playing against him, you really respect him. A really underrated, great passer, great player. I think he’s meant so much to this organization. Just to do it with one team, that’s so special. It’s such a cool accomplishment for him.”
Bailey, the ninth overall pick in 2008, made his NHL debut in a 3-1 loss to the Flyers at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 11 of that year.
He entered Friday’s contest with 177 career goals and 379 assists after scoring his first of the season in Wednesday night’s 3-0 win over the visiting Rangers.
“He’s a good pro,” said Matt Martin, who first was Bailey’s teammate in 2010. “Whether it’s going good or bad, he comes to the rink every day and does his job. Stays focused on what he needs to do. He’s just a tremendous leader for this team. He’s close with so many of us. He’s one of my best friends. Very happy and proud of him.”
“A lot of fond memories that we’ve had together on the ice and off the ice,” said Anders Lee, also Bailey’s teammate since 2013. “His game is so cerebral, the way he sees the ice. I’ve played a lot of games alongside him. He’s always finding the open guy and making the smart play. A lot of his skill is undercover. I don’t think there’s enough appreciation at times.”
Notes & quotes: Goalie Semyon Varlamov is expected to start against the Avalanche . . . Ross Johnston, Nikita Soshnikov and defenseman Robin Salo were the healthy scratches.