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Isles' Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson appreciate the challenge of facing opponents' top offensive lines

Brock Nelson of the New York Islanders celebrates

Brock Nelson of the New York Islanders celebrates his power-play goal against the Penguins with Josh Bailey at the Nassau Coliseum on February 27, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

The highlights of an NHL scoresheet are the goals and assists, with the nuances of strong defensive play largely unrepresented. Yet it’s the overall package that coaches evaluate.

So, ask the Islanders’ Barry Trotz about the offensive consistency he needs from second-line stalwarts Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey and he’ll immediately mention how that trio — regardless of who’s on left wing — is getting the toughest defensive matchups.

"We like it," Bailey said. "It’s a challenge. It’s something you take pride in and look forward to. It forces you to make sure you’re ready to go every night and be on your game."

The Islanders conclude a three-game series with the Flyers on Monday night in Philadelphia as they open a four-game road trip. They snapped a two-game losing streak with Saturday night’s 6-1 win at Nassau Coliseum.

Bailey had a power-play assist on Saturday, then closed the scoring late in the third period to snap a five-game goal drought with just his second goal in 12 games.

"They’ve had some pretty critical matchups," Trotz said. "They’re head-to-head against the top line a lot. They’re producing on the power play. I’m OK with them. They’re not going to be perfect every game. I think when Josh and Nellie are skating and just managing the puck really well — just keeping it sort of simple — I think they get more productive out of it. They’re very intelligent when they do get some good [offensive] zone time."

Trotz altered his trios on Saturday by flip-flopping left wings Anthony Beauvillier and Michael Dal Colle, placing the grinding Dal Colle on Nelson’s line and the speedy but streaky Beauvillier on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line.

Beauvillier scored his first goal in nine games on Saturday.

"We talk, we’re friends," Bailey said. "We’ve got a whole group of guys in the room who are pulling for one another. That’s a great thing to have. You always have lots of guys you can lean on. That’s part of being a good team."

Dal Colle scored his first goal of the season in Thursday night’s 4-3 loss to the Flyers at the Coliseum and hit a post early in Saturday’s second period.

The best of what Dal Colle does — strong play along the walls, forechecking and puck retrieval — are also elements that don’t reflect on the scoresheet.

Shots on net are a statistic on the scoresheet and Dal Colle only had seven through his first 18 games. But Trotz is encouraged that Dal Colle has become more aggressive in trying to attack the crease.

"That’s just another add to his game," Trotz said. "With Michael, he has to understand who he’s playing with as well. I like the fact that he’s moving his feet. He’s creating loose pucks. He’s getting opportunities. At the same time, he’s got to stay firm because he is a big body. He can keep that thing straight line, getting to the net, creating a little more disruption there and not falling off the play.

"If he does that, then I think that production and all the other things he’s done will all come together and he’ll be able to tie it in for a real productive run."

Trotz still is looking to replace injured captain Anders Lee on Mathew Barzal’s top line with Jordan Eberle.

Leo Komarov, more of a bottom-six grinder, is auditioning now.

"It’s nice to get some playing time and play with two, really good players," Komarov said. "I know what my job is. Just try to get the puck to Barzy and Ebs and try to stay out of the way."

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