Ryan Strome took a seat Saturday night as a healthy scratch. It was a bit of a surprising move to bench the second-year forward who has been among the Islanders' leading scorers all season.
"He's a young guy, and you don't need to play every game, you really don't," coach Jack Capuano said. "You want to, but you don't. It might be another young guy who sits going forward."
Capuano may have let slip his choice for who sat out Saturday night with Frans Nielsen coming back into the lineup. Nielsen missed Friday's 2-1 loss to the Senators with what the team termed maintenance, having been bothered by a lower-body problem since he suffered the injury Feb. 22.
"Brock [Nelson] will play and Strome is out," Capuano said without being asked about Nelson, his other second-year forward. After terrific starts to the season, Nelson and Strome have cooled off.
Nelson had 15 goals and 15 assists in the 46 games before the All-Star break. He has three goals and six assists in the 24 games after the break. Strome's numbers are similarly stark: eight goals and 25 assists before the break, 6-4-10 after. Considering their roles in the middle lines of the Isles' lineup, more is clearly expected.
"You always want to contribute, but you're not going to be able to do it every night," Nelson said after Friday's loss. "You need a couple bounces to go your way and you hopefully get on a roll."
Anders Lee, the other young Islanders forward, has thrived since the All-Star break, which is when he joined John Tavares' line in Kyle Okposo's absence.
Aside from 10 goals and 10 assists in those 24 post-break games, Lee does something that Capuano wants to see from all his forwards: He shows a willingness to drive to the net and stay there.
The Isles have only two games in the next 10 days, so there will be time to consider what happens next for the crowded group of forwards.
"Young guys sometimes hit a wall, though I don't think any of our guys have," Capuano said. "It's a luxury to have with the depth we've got."