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Patience paying off for Isles' Tambellini

Jeff Tambellini #15 of the New York Islanders

Jeff Tambellini #15 of the New York Islanders celebrates after assisting on a goal during the first period of a preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings. (September 22, 2009) Credit: Getty Images

After playing in the Islanders' season opener against Pittsburgh on Oct. 3, Jeff Tambellini found himself in an undesirable position.

Scratched for the next five games, Tambellini was forced to watch his team search fruitlessly for their first win of the season from the lonely confines of the press box.

However, with his breakout performance since returning to the lineup - including his first NHL hat trick Saturday - Tambellini won't be on the outside looking in anytime soon.

With his three-goal performance in the 5-0 rout of Buffalo, Tambellini now has two multigoal efforts in the past five games and is tied with Matt Moulson for the team lead with six goals.

When asked if he thought such a sharp turnaround was possible this season, Tambellini said he never doubted himself.

"You know what? Honestly, I did," Tambellini said of his rapid ascent to the upper tier of Islanders offensive contributors. "I had a lot of confidence coming into this year and I felt like I had a strong preseason. We had a numbers game at the start of the season, and rightfully so. I had to wait a couple games and prove myself."

That patience paid off once Tambellini was inserted back into the Islanders lineup for the team's first win of the season against Carolina on Oct. 21. He then scored his first goal of the season on a deflection two games later against Washington on Oct. 24 to begin his goal-studded comeback week.

Tambellini's output coincides nicely with coach Scott Gordon's desire to find secondary scoring on a team that had been led, lopsidedly, by the Islanders' top line of Moulson, John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo.

"We're finding a way to score some goals here and not just from our top line, which has carried the load for a while now," Tambellini said.

Though Tambellini has always been regarded as a highly skilled player whose dominance in the AHL is irrefutable - 194 points in 169 games - he has received criticism at times as a perimeter player hindered by his inability to develop the physical element to his game.

That no longer is a concern, as he has shown an increased willingness to battle down low, crash the net and put himself in position to score greasy goals in tough areas.

"It's a hard thing when you've had success in the past to know you can get by on your shot alone [in the AHL]. But the goalies are so good in the NHL and the time and space is a lot different," Gordon said. "Now he's going to the front of the net.

"He's really made himself a more complete player. And that's really all you can ask."

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