UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- John Tavares is the star and Anders Lee has become the new scoring sensation, but Josh Bailey has been the unheralded and underrated member of the New York Islanders top line regardless of which side he plays on and who plays on the opposite wing.
Bailey has 14 points in his past 15 games playing either left wing or right wing opposite all-star center John Tavares. He switched from left to right when Kyle Okposo was injured 10 games ago, but still has seven points in those 10 games, including five points on three goals and two assists on a current three-game point streak.
Left Wing - NYI
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 28
SOG: 80 | +/-: 11
Bailey has 28 points on 11 goals and 17 assists in 44 games this season. He is on pace for 44 points, which would be a career high. Bailey's current career high is 38 points.
"When he was put there with me and Kyle you could sense there was some familiarity, some rhythm there with us," Tavares said. "He's making plays and winning a lot of battles, doing a lot of good things without the puck that's leading to a lot of good things. He fit on there with me and Kyle, and with Anders [Lee] now, going to the right side, it's an adjustment, but we've been trying to communicate and give him as much help as I can. When you give him the puck you look to find open ice because he can find you and you just have to be ready."
Lee's emergence as a first-line left wing (he has 10 points in seven games on the top line) could give Islanders coach Jack Capuano a difficult decision when Okposo is ready to come back into the lineup, which likely won't be until the middle of March.
Okposo will likely slide back into his position as the right wing with Tavares, but if Lee keeps scoring Bailey might be moved down the lineup. It likely wouldn't phase Bailey because of his versatility.
Bailey said the coaches asked him in the preseason if he would be OK playing on either wing.
"I said, 'I don't care, either way works for me,'" Bailey said. "It's all the same."
"He's a really versatile player," Lee said. "He can play anywhere on the ice and he can make plays from anywhere, score from anywhere. He's putting plenty of passes on my stick that I didn't think would get there, and all of a sudden things open up. He really slows the game down when he has the puck. He has so much poise. He never panics and is always ready to make a play.
"You put him in any situation and he's going to succeed."
But likely won't receive a lot of notoriety for it.
"Oh that's fine," Bailey said. "I feel like I just keep trying to do my part, work hard. That's fine by me."