43° Good Afternoon
43° Good Afternoon

Natural centers Nelson, Strome, Grabovski form formidable line for Islanders

The Islanders celebrate a goal by Brock Nelson,

The Islanders celebrate a goal by Brock Nelson, left, at 4:50 of the third period against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 14, 2014 at Madison Square Garden. Joining Nelson from left to right are Travis Hamonic #3, Ryan Strome #18, Thomas Hickey #14 and Mikhail Grabovski #84. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

Brock Nelson is getting plenty of attention for his hot start to the season. His four goals lead the Islanders through three games, though two of those were off his right leg and from the stick of Johnny Boychuk. Nelson's seven points are tied with John Tavares for most on the team.

The bigger revelation has been Nelson's work with his linemates Mikhail Grabovski and Ryan Strome. The three natural centers were put together by Jack Capuano for the final week of practice before Friday's opener in Raleigh. They've scored a couple of notable goals, in that Friday opener and on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, created with speed and good puck movement below the opposing goal line.

"We need to sustain that pressure, so I think each of us has more to give," said Strome, who has four assists in three games, three of which were the primary assist on his linemates' goals. "Grabo is so good coming out of the corner, Brock gives you that big body in front and I think I have some creativity so it's looked good at times. But we need to do more and show more below the goal line."

Nothing has been perfect except the Isles' record thus far and they get their biggest test Thursday night when the Sharks, also 3-0 to start this season, come to Nassau Coliseum. San Jose has quick defensemen and an array of talent up front and the Isles, particularly Nelson's line, will have to keep possession effectively and keep the play in the Sharks end.

"They're similar players, they've got some skill," Capuano said. "We had a couple turnovers with that line, they were on for five chances against [on Tuesday], so they have to make sure they channel it in the right way."

Capuano experimented during training camp, trying all three players on that line at center and wing to find a fit on a roster laden with centers. Grabovski played some wing with the Caps last season and Strome played some wing at the end of his rookie season with the Isles. The ultimate decision was that Nelson had a very strong camp at center, which he clearly has continued.

"We help each other, doesn't matter where we play," Grabovski said. "We have offensive players who can make play, Nelson is great guy in own zone and it's easy to trust him."

Notes & quotes: Calvin de Haan (upper body) practiced fully again Wednesday and could be ready to make his season debut against San Jose. D Lubomir Visnovsky (back) skated on his own for a third consecutive day as he slowly progresses toward a return.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports