Jordan Eberle backhanded the rebound into the St. Louis net from the right doorstep. He had 200 reasons to smile — 200 NHL goals.
“It’s not something you really think about when you’re a kid,” Eberle said after the Islanders practiced Wednesday at Northwell Health Ice Center following their win Tuesday night at Barclays Center. “You think about making the NHL. But once you get there, I think the main thing is to try to be as consistent as possible.”
That has been the MO for the 28-year-old first-line right wing. Eberle scored at least 20 goals in each of the past five seasons. He posted 25 with 34 assists last season, his first with the Islanders after being acquired from Edmonton in June of 2017.
Now, after a slow start, Eberle has been raising his production. He has four goals and four assists in his last 10 games despite the elephant in the room, or the rink in this case. He doesn’t know where he will be playing next season. The clock is winding down on his six-year, $36 million contract.
“It’s on my mind, but it’s out of your control, really,” said Eberle, whose linemates, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, have expiring deals, too. “… It’s not up to me. The best I can do is try and play well and keep helping us try and win hockey games.
“It’s been fun being a part of this. We’re a good team. We’re surging for first place right now. We feel we have the group to do it. So I’ve enjoyed it.”
Asked if he’s thinking about the Feb. 25 trade deadline, “No, not really. The more you worry about it, the more you stress yourself out.” He did add, “I love it here.”
Eberle has 10 goals and 11 assists in 41 games. But three goals and one assist have come in the six games since the 2008 first-rounder returned after being sidelined for four with an upper-body injury.
“He’s got 200 goals in this league,” Barry Trotz said. “I think there’s only two guys in his draft class that have done that. So that’s not bad.”
He started to pick up the pace before getting hurt, contributing one goal and three assists in four games.
"He’s underrated as far as the plays he makes out there,” Josh Bailey said. “He seems to always make the right play. He’s got a knack for scoring goals. Really good passer.”
But Eberle had just six goals and seven assists across his first 31 games.
"In the last probably 10, 12, 13 games, I feel like our line collectively as a group, we’ve been playing better,” Eberle said. “That helps you individually.”