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SportsHockeyIslanders

Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolay Kulemin look to turn a new leaf with Islanders

Nikolay Kulemin of the Islanders takes the first

Nikolay Kulemin of the Islanders takes the first period shot against the New Jersey Devils at Barclays Center on Sept. 26, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

Part of the reason Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin signed together with the Islanders was their familiarity and past success as linemates with the Leafs.

It remains to be seen whether the two Eastern Europeans -- Grabovski was born in the former East Germany and was raised in Belarus; Kulemin in Russia -- can duplicate their 2010-11 seasons, when Grabovski had 29 goals and 58 points and Kulemin produced 30 goals on Grabovski's wing.

The most important part right now of their package deal with the Isles is easing into a new team and a new system together.

"It's always tough to come to a new team for me," Grabovski said. "I'm kind of a shy guy, so it's not easy. It's easier with Nikolay here, too. My closest friend in NHL -- our wives are friends, our kids. I feel more comfortable with him around."

Jack Capuano seemingly has been inclined to keep the two friends together on a proposed second line, though Friday night at Barclays Center there was a twist: Grabovski and Kulemin were on the wings with Brock Nelson in the middle.

The trio had some effective moments. Grabovski got a try as the top-line left wing on Wednesday at the Coliseum, though he didn't mesh quite as well with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Grabovski has been a center just about his entire seven-year NHL career, save for the final quarter of last season with the Capitals.

Flexibility seems to be the most important quality Capuano is seeking in his forwards. Nelson has been effective in the middle, so Grabovski could be the one to move.

After his last two seasons, he's not fazed by much. He signed a five-year, $27-million extension with the Leafs before the 2012-13 season, but his role changed and he had only 16 points in the shortened season. He then was bought out only a year into the new pact.

He had 35 points in 58 games with the Caps on a one-year deal, then he and Kulemin's agent, Gary Greenstin, began looking for a team that could take both forwards on. "I was in the same team for six years, only make the playoffs once. It's hard to play for a team that doesn't make the playoffs every year," Kulemin said of his five years in Toronto. "I think it's time to start with a new team, be better moving forward."

Notes & quotes: After being shut out in their Barclays Center debut last September, the Isles got on the board this time around and grabbed a 3-2 shootout decision over the Devils. Ryan Pulock, the 2013 first-round pick, scored on the power play and Colin McDonald scored as well for the Isles, who drew 11,823 to Barclays Center for the game.

New York Sports