COLUMBUS, Ohio - They are the three longest-tenured Islanders around right now, which means they've played together at times. Sometimes in dark times. OK, often in dark times.
Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo never have been a set line from the beginning of the season. Now Nielsen, in his 10th season with the Isles, is clicking well with longtime teammates Okposo (in his ninth Isles season) and Bailey (in his eighth).
The three have totaled 1,466 games with the club. Games such as Saturday's, when each of the three scored in a 6-3 win over the Sharks, show that none of these elder Islanders statesmen is past his usefulness.
"It was nice to get some results because I thought we'd played pretty well leading up to this one," said Bailey, who forced a turnover behind the San Jose net, fed Okposo in the slot and converted the rebound to make it 3-3. "We've been together so long, we can read off one another pretty well. We know where the other guys will be."
The Islanders need their lines that don't include John Tavares to produce. Tavares has had a hand in eight of the team's 17 goals as the Isles get ready to face the winless Blue Jackets Tuesday night. But the Nielsen line and the Nikolay Kulemin-Mikhail Grabovski-Brock Nelson line are starting to come on, which will make this already potent Islanders offense that much more of a threat.
Nielsen and Okposo are in the final year of their contracts, which can complicate things. But both have remained focused on helping the only team on which either has ever played.
Nielsen's strong underlying stats -- he leads the team's forwards in Corsi (shot attempts on or not on net) this season and is among the NHL's leaders in faceoff percentage -- show that at 31, he's not in decline just yet.
And Okposo, despite the trade rumors that dogged his offseason, is not only blocking such talk out but thriving, even without any even-strength time alongside Tavares. Of his six points, only one was on the power play with No. 91 on the ice with him.
"We've never had this much time to play together before the season, so it's been good," said Okposo, who powered to the net to score the eventual winner early in the third period Saturday. "We can't just be a one-line team if we want to be successful."
As for Bailey, who is 19 games from reaching 500 with the Isles -- Nielsen hit that mark last season and Okposo is at 455 -- the much-maligned 26-year-old has continued his reinvention this season as a winger who doesn't shy from contact or the corners.
"We're all pretty similar players," Bailey said. "It's been fun considering how long we've been around each other here."