Brock Nelson is getting used to being one of Jack Capuano’s right wing men.
Playing the right side is a bit of a departure for Nelson, who spent most of last season as a center, while also spending some time on the left wing. As a lefty, he’s playing on his off-wing at the moment, which has both pros and cons.
“It’s a little different in the defensive zone, not being able to see the whole ice as well, but going into the offensive zone you’re able to make a couple more plays and create a couple more chances,” Nelson said.
How so? Nelson’s better situated to take shots off the right wing, as well as one-timers. On Monday, he took full advantage, cleanly beating Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec in the 14-hole (low stick side), a prime shot for a lefty against a right-handed goalie on that wing.
“It’s nice you can have the puck on your forehand the whole way and get better angles for shooting,” Nelson said. “When you’re able to come into the zone on the right side it’s a lot better.”
Nelson is starting the season alongside Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin and has three points (one goal, two assists) in four games. He’s reportedly on the right side because he let Kulemin, the veteran, have first choice and he took the left side. Nelson joked he’s going to have to start learning Russian if the line sticks together for an extended period.
(For starters, prokhodit means pass and strelyat means shoot.)
“I need to look up some Russian words so I know what they’re saying,” Nelson said. “But I think we’ve done some good things, connected on a few goals now. We’re getting to know one another a little bit better on the ice, tendencies and different things.”
Nelson described the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Kulemin as a tank who frees up space. As for Grabovski, Nelson is using his previous center experience to anticipate where Grabovski will be on the ice and where he should be as a result.
“Grabovski’s a good centerman,” Nelson said. “He’s in good spots and knowing the center position a little bit definitely makes it easier to know where he is going to be a little bit more. [Kulemin] is a tank out there and tough guy to handle down low.”
The line hooked up for the Islanders’ third goal in Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators. Nelson missed a shot on the short side, but the puck took a big bounce on the end boards and kicked out to the far side, where Kulemin buried his 100th career NHL goal. A spot of luck, perhaps, but still, all three players have at least two points this season.
“It’s a good offensive line, but they have to be sound defensively,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “It’s early on in the season, guys are still getting adjusted to each other. It’s starting to come for those guys.”