There's no ideal time for an outbreak of injuries to occur, but in some cases, the lack of available bandwidth serves as a character test. While the 82-game season is still very much in its infancy, a test at this stage of the season can provide value for the collective group down the stretch.
The absences of Casey Cizikas, who was placed on IR on Oct. 8, and Jordan Eberle, who was placed on IR on Oct. 12, have issued the Islanders such a challenge. Amidst the onset of that adversity, the Islanders have managed to scrap together 10 points and a 5-3-0 record, highlighted by their current four-game winning streak.
While the string of wins admittedly includes a few fortunate bounces, it has ultimately shown flares of the resilience and character that propelled the Isles into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. Those moments of promise have been backstopped by the heroics of goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss, the confidence radiating from Mathew Barzal and the consistency from the line of Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier and Michael Dal Colle, who have answered the bell.
"We certainly need consistency right through our lineup, but [Nelson's line] carries a big piece of it," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "Brock scored some real big goals; they've had some real tough matchups. I think you can see the confidence that Beau is carrying right now as a player, and you can see the confidence that Brock has. They haven't shied away from the added responsibilities that have been given to them. That's part of the growth of both of them. They're taking it and owning it a little bit."
Video: NYI@CBJ: Dal Colle knocks home Beauvillier's pass
Despite Cizikas returning to his first full-contact practice on Tuesday, the Islanders have had to factor in the further subtraction of Leo Komarov, who has been day-to-day with illness after missing Saturday's game. Tom Kuhnhackl has also taken two maintenance days. All things considered; the coaching staff has relied heavily on Nelson and co. to take on the responsibilities normally occupied by Cizikas' line while also still generating crucial offense.
Whether it's starting each period with statement energy, going head-to-head against the opposition's top lines, rotating reps on the penalty kill or taking clutch defensive zone faceoffs in the waning minutes of regulation; the trio has risen to the occasion.
"[Cizikas] is a big piece of our team and he plays a lot of important faceoffs and top matchups against top lines," Nelson said. "[His absence] just opens up some more space and opportunity for faceoffs and matchups. I'm just trying to take advantage of that and make the most of those opportunities. You still try to play your game, but there's some added responsibilities there."
Video: NYI@CBJ: Nelson buries Leddy's dish for overtime win
Case in point, Nelson took 54% of the Islanders' face-offs against the Winnipeg Jets, including four in the defensive zone in the final two minutes of the game. Beauvillier and Nelson started Saturday's overtime session and - along with Nick Leddy - teamed up for the OT winner.
"We've just been keeping it simple," said Beauvillier, who is third on the team with six points (2G, 4A). "I think we've had some good games. We've been good on the forecheck. We've had some good scoring chances. You obviously don't want guys to get hurt on your team, but when it happens guys have got to step up on your team. Our line did a good job."
Nelson, who has a track record for success with 27 goals and 24 assists in 68 career games in #Brocktober, is tied with Barzal atop the Isles leaderboard with seven points (4G, 3A). Nelson has gone 46.75% on faceoffs, scored one power-play goal and has come through with two a team-high of two game-winning goals. As a line, they have points in the past three games.
"Brock is awesome to play with," said Dal Colle, who potted his first of the season in Columbus. "He's always in the right areas. He's great offensively and defensively. Playing with a guy like that makes it easier on me. He's always in the right areas. They're both responsible, but also like to get the offense going. I think we've got some good chemistry going here."
Fortunately, the Islanders schedule allots them some much-needed R&R with four full days between Saturday's win and their next game on Thursday against Arizona. For Nelson, Beauvillier and Dal Colle, they hope to continue to maximize that time to further connect and study up.
"We've been able to build off of these last couple of games," Beauvillier said. "I think we've been able to feed off each other a little bit. It's been good. We've had good shifts and good games. That's really what you want as a line to be able to just keep building and learning [from] each other."