MONTREAL - Ryan Strome has been hearing it from the Islanders' coaches ever since he arrived for his first NHL training camp four years ago: Go to the net, go to the corners and you'll never hurt for playing time.
And even though Strome is midway through a breakout season at age 21, he said his coaches still tell him to stay with what's been working for him.
"I'll come to the bench and still hear a reminder after a shift, and that's great," Strome said before Saturday night's 6-4 loss to the Canadiens. "It's still an everyday challenge for me, a new challenge to continue doing what I need to do to be successful."
There's been no lack of success for Strome this season. Back in training camp, he was shifted between center, his usual spot, and right wing, ultimately starting the season on the right side while Brock Nelson took the third center spot.
Strome still is on the right side, and he's adapted well. From the goal he created on opening night by storming behind the Hurricanes' net to steal the puck and feed Mikhail Grabovski for a score to the goal he scored Friday night against the Penguins, Strome has taken the coaches' words to heart.
Although Strome averages only 14:46 of ice time, he is third on the Islanders in scoring with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists). Entering Saturday night, only the Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (43 points, 14:44) had more points while playing less time than Strome.
It's helped that Strome has had Anders Lee on his opposite wing since Lee was recalled from Bridgeport two weeks into the season. Lee mostly works the corners and the slot, which allows Strome to ease off his own dirty work at times. But Strome says it has the opposite effect.
"It's more I need to do what he's doing," he said. "The front, that's his office. We've scored a few greasy ones the past few weeks, so you know you have to keep doing it."
One thing Strome has never lacked is confidence. Even after Sidney Crosby scored to negate Strome's tying goal and send the Islanders to the third period trailing on Friday night, Strome and his teammates felt good about a game that swung their way with yet another third-period onslaught.
"I was on the bench thinking, 'We're winning this game. No question,' " he said. "It's not being cocky, honestly. We're feeling confident about our game, and when we play it, we've had success."
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