Josh Bailey will start on the third line when the Islanders face the Penguins to open a two-game road trip on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. But the right wing, long a fixture among the top six forwards, doesn’t see it as a demotion.
Rather, he believes skating with Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov, savvy hard workers who can keep the puck in the offensive zone, may coax more production out of his game much like the Finnish duo did recently for the previously struggling Anthony Beauvillier.
“I feel good about it,” Bailey said after Wednesday’s practice in East Meadow. “They’ve been playing some good hockey so, hopefully, I can add to that.”
Bailey, 29, in the first season of a six-year, $30-million extension, still needs one point to reach 400 for his career after being held off the scoresheet in Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Jets at Barclays Center while skating with center Mathew Barzal and Beauvillier for the sixth straight game.
Tom Kuhnhackl flip-flopped lines with Bailey in practice.
“We’re just trying to tweak it a little bit,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “We’re trying to get a little more balance.”
Bailey has seven goals and 15 assists after setting career highs last season with 18 goals and 53 assists for 71 points while skating with John Tavares. Bailey had two goals and nine assists in an eight-game point streak from Oct. 13 to Nov. 3 but has just one goal and two assists over his last eight games.
“There’s room for improvement,” Bailey said. “I’m relied upon to help this team produce offense. You want to do more of that but within the team concept is key. You can’t give up your own end to succeed at the other. I’m just trying to find a better balance of that. You go through these things during the course of the season. I’m not too worried about it.”
Bailey also skates on the Islanders’ top power-play unit and the team is 0-for-17 with the man advantage over the past eight games.
Notes & quotes: Goalie Robin Lehner accompanied the team to Pittsburgh despite not practicing on Wednesday and not dressing against the Jets. Christopher Gibson likely again will serve as Thomas Greiss’ backup against the Penguins, though Trotz said he’s hopeful Lehner will skate on Thursday. “That would be a plan,” Trotz said. “We’ll see where he is. He’s close because we’re taking him . . . " Trotz, who coached the expansion Predators for the first 15 seasons of that organization’s existence, believes the NHL made a good choice in awarding Seattle the 32nd franchise on Tuesday. “It’ll be a great market,” Trotz said. “It’s a good hockey city. They’re going to do it right. They’ve got some good examples in Nashville, Vegas.”