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Ullstrom continues to make impact

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Rookie forward David Ullstrom continues to impress. The Swedish skater has played in four games since his Nov. 20 recall and though he’s yet to score his first NHL goal, he’s been a welcome addition to the Islanders roster.

“He didn’t need to get called up for me to know that he’ll be a difference maker,” Josh Bailey said of his linemate over the last four games. “I’ve seen him play since he came into rookie camps and in Bridgeport. He’s got high-end skill, lots of speed.”

Bailey added, “He’s a very heady player with a good shot. He’s got all the tools. He’s a great player. Adding him to our lineup is good for everyone.”

Ullstrom is a very versatile player. In his first few games, he averaged 10:53 of ice time playing on Bailey’s wing, opposite of Kyle Okposo, while the last two games he’s been opposite of veteran winger Brian Rolston.

David Ullstrom plays the puck against the New Jersey Devils during the game at the Prudential Center on November 26, 2011. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
“The two games there, we moved the puck well, used our speed and got the puck deep,” Ullstrom said. “We outworked them down there and I don’t think they got a lot of chances against us because we worked hard in both ends, especially our back check and helped our D out. So I think we played real good.”

But with the loss of veteran forward Jay Pandolfo (broken foot), Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said the Swedish rookie could get some playing time at center, a position he’s very familiar with. Capuano had Ullstrom center Nino Niederreiter and Rolston in practice at Iceworks on Monday.

“He played center last year,” Capuano said. “He’s a guy that we just wanted to give a few reps just in case.”

Ullstrom said, “It will be fun to go back to center if that happens, but I’m comfortable playing both wing and center. I’m real excited for tomorrow.”

Even though he’s played on the wing in his first four NHL games, he’s taken five faceoffs and won 60 percent of them.

“It’s something you work on,” Ullstrom said of his success on the draw. “I improved a lot last year, so I’m pretty comfortable getting in. It’s different to work on your faceoffs in practice than it is in a game because it’s all about reading the player. It’s a mental game and I love taking draws. It’s a fun part of the game for me.”

Capuano has liked more than Ullstrom’s versatility.

“He took some faceoffs for us, but I just like his urgency, his desperation,” Capuano said. “He’s been strong on the forecheck, he’s been good on our back pressure and tracking the puck. He’s made some skilled plays. He doesn’t look like a rookie. He came into our lineup wanting to stay and help our team.”

So whether Ullstrom is on the wing or flanks Niederreiter and Rolston in Tuesday’s game at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, he’s bound to make an impact.

“I try to play the same way at center as I do at wing,” Ullstrom said. “I use my speed and play good defensively, but try to come with a lot of speed through the neutral zone, feed my wingers and drive the net. I just want to use my speed and my skill set, so I’m just going to keep skating.”

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