FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Josh Bailey came off injured reserve on Thursday. One might think that means Bailey, who was off to a very strong start when he suffered a broken left hand on Oct. 23 in Boston, will go right back into the Islanders' lineup.
Not so fast, Jack Capuano said. The Islanders have the sort of depth they haven't had since Capuano took over (and well before). And as they bring a four-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida, the Isles don't exactly have a wealth of players who need to be yanked from the lineup.
"If we put Bails back in," Capuano said, "someone has to come out. That's a hard decision right now."
Still, if Thursday's practice lines are to be believed, Bailey likely will slot back in alongside Frans Nielsen and Mikhail Grabovski, with Cory Conacher a healthy scratch.
The Islanders had all four lines rolling in Tuesday night's 6-0 win over the Avalanche, one of the more dominating performances by Capuano's team in recent memory.
That they scored six times with only a single assist from the John Tavares-Kyle Okposo tandem could be cause for concern over the top line. More likely, though, it's an endorsement of a balanced attack. The Isles have six players with at least 10 points and six players with at least three goals.
"They probably had seven or eight chances last game. They could have had a couple goals," Capuano said of the Tavares-Okposo-Nikolay Kulemin line. "Other lines were doing the right things, too, and they got rewarded for it. I've said it all season long: We play with the same foundation and framework we have the last few games, good things will happen for these guys."
And so they have, especially during the past week: Four straight wins, two consecutive shutouts, three goals allowed in four games.
Relevant to this weekend jaunt to Florida, with the Panthers Friday night and the Lightning Saturday in Tampa, is the Isles' 4-0-0 record in their two previous sets of back-to-back games.
So it's into this hot streak that Bailey likely returns.
"Josh was one of our top guys when he got hurt," Capuano said. "He knows what he needs to do not only to stay in the lineup but help the team win."
Notes & quotes: The Isles placed Eric Boulton (lower body) on injured reserve. Boulton tweaked something in Monday's practice after playing three games, all wins, on the five-game road trip.
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