Julien Gauthier #16 of the Islanders celebrates his first period goal...

Julien Gauthier #16 of the Islanders celebrates his first period goal against the San Jose Sharks with teammates Simon Holmstrom #10 and Mike Reilly #2 at UBS Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 in Elmont. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Julien Gauthier jumped to answer the question before it was completed.

“No,” the 26-year-old forward said when Newsday inquired whether he believes he’s started to “even scratch” his full potential. “No, I literally just started having a couple of games in a row where I get some decent ice time. It’s not even close to it. I can get really hot and get on a good streak when I get confidence.”

Gauthier remained in the Islanders’ lineup for a sixth straight game — just the eighth time he’s dressed this season — on Thursday night against the Blue Jackets at UBS Arena.

He entered the second game of a season-high six-game homestand with goals in his previous two games — his first with the Islanders — and four points in his last four games. It marked his third game skating on third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s right wing.

His first goal proved the winner in Saturday’s 4-3 victory over the Panthers to conclude a 2-1-0 road trip. Gauthier dropped to his knees after scoring off an offensive-zone faceoff early in the third period, though he claimed it was not an exaggerated celebration, just the result of him being tripped. He pumped both arms after opening the scoring in Tuesday’s homestand-opening 5-4 overtime loss to the Sharks as the Islanders could not hold a three-goal lead midway through the third period.

“I was making fun of his first one, double knee down,” Pageau said. “He told me he got tripped or he got pushed. But it’s something I’ve been all over him for that. I was like, ‘Next goal, you’ve got to do it.’ Last game he didn’t do it. I asked him right away on the bench, ‘Why didn’t you do it?’”

Gauthier, who spent parts of four seasons with the Rangers from 2020-23, signed a two-year, $1.575 million deal with the Islanders as an unrestricted free agent. Just like his previous teams, which include the Hurricanes and Senators, the Islanders were intrigued by his combination of size (6-4, 226 pounds) and slick-skating speed.

But Gauthier played in just one of the Islanders’ first 13 games and two of their first 19.

“He comes into the rink, he’s positive,” Pageau said. “Even in the position that he was in, he was coming in with a smile and trying to bring some enthusiasm to the rink. I think that helped him when he got in the lineup. Guys are happy he’s in. He’s bringing a lot of speed. He’s physical. He’s got a good shot.

“I think he’s gained a bit of confidence just by playing some minutes. He’s been put in certain positions, being in the defensive zone for draws. Those are big tasks. He’s been doing the job getting on the scoresheet.”

The knock against Gauthier during his NHL career after being selected 21st overall by the Hurricanes in 2016 was he could use his speed to create chances but had trouble finishing. He entered this season with 14 goals and 18 assists in 153 games, mostly skating as a bottom-six forward.

That included 11 goals and 15 assists in 131 games for the Rangers.

“The more you play, the better your legs feel,” Gauthier said. “You have a better feel for the game. You start to make more plays.

“With the Rangers, I never had any sort of opportunity there. My average with them has got to be around nine minutes a game. It’s pretty hard to do anything with that. You’ve just got to stay patient, stay consistent and keep working on your game. Eventually it’s going to come if you’re persistent with it.”

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