Islanders’ Josh Bailey comes up big despite diminished role
It would be easy for Josh Bailey to complain.
The 33-year-old, just a few games into the season, was a healthy scratch — taking his 1,000th game into a road game from a home date against the Rangers.
His role has been greatly reduced, with Bailey sometimes finding himself on the fourth line.
In the first period Tuesday, he played just 0:44 at even strength.
Whether those decisions are justified or not, Bailey’s status is infuriating.
He is third in franchise history in games played, top five in assists, top 15 in goals.
His number may eventually be retired.
Instead, here he was joking in the dressing room on Tuesday after scoring a crucial goal and netting the game-winning assist in the Islanders’ biggest win of the season, a 3-2 victory over the Sabres. How he didn’t hear the fans singing. His goal song is very high “From Collie”.
There’s a reason Bailey wears the “A” on his uniform and is well-liked in the dressing room. It is because of this.
“Yeah it’s different,” he admitted of his role. “I think at the same time, you’re just trying to stay focused and in the game and ready to have your number called. This is actually my mindset. When your number is called, make sure you’re ready and give it your best.”
Bailey did just that Tuesday, pouncing on a loose puck for a backhand goal 1:51 into the game to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
After the Sabers tied it, he blindly shot a puck from the point, hoping it would hit something.
It went off Hudson Fasching’s knee and into the goal for a 3-2 lead, with the initial call upheld after a review.
“I wasn’t aiming for anything,” Bailey said. “Just a quick shot tip from the point, you’re hopefully trying to get it over the net. You also hope for some good bounce.”
This performance is unlikely to change his role. And it is unlikely that Bailey will care about it.
“You can’t say enough about him,” coach Lane Lambert said. “And that’s just his character. This is his personality and this is his character. He is a quality person who comes to work, no matter what.
“And sometimes it might not be what he’s looking for or what he wants but at the end of the day, he comes out and does his job. At the end of the day, all credit to him and I’m glad he got the award.
Although Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a practice participant on Monday, he did not play on Tuesday as Otto Koivula continued to man the fourth line at center.
Lambert told Pageau it was day-to-day and did not say whether he would travel to Pittsburgh for Thursday’s game.