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X-Factor: Brock Nelson's value to Islanders elevated

Forward takes on more prominent role with Anders Lee injury

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

The moment New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson found out teammate Anders Lee was out indefinitely because of a broken left fibula, he knew his role was going to change.

With the Islanders forced to begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs without the 6-foot-3, 228-pound Lee, a new player has to be willing to sacrifice his body by standing in front of the net to take the pounding dished out in that high-value real estate during the postseason.

Enter Nelson (6-3, 206), who has been asked to play that style in the past and has seen time on the top line alongside captain John Tavares.

"I think right away that we'll put Brock out there," coach Jack Capuano said. "He started the year in that role, he played that role last year a little bit. He's one of the guys for sure. We'll see how it moves forward and how it effects other units as well."

Video: TBL@NYI: Nelson beats Bishop with a gorgeous backhand

Nelson has been inconsistent at times this season, but that didn't prevent him from setting a career-high in goals. Should he get hot in the playoffs, it could help determine whether the Islanders win their first postseason series since 1993.

He's ready for the challenge. After all, it wouldn't be anything new or foreign to him.

"I played quite a bit there last year," Nelson said of playing around the opponent's crease. "I had a couple hit me and go in, and I've obviously scored a few power-play goals. I just need to embrace the opportunity and try to make the most of it.

"It [stinks] having a guy like that go down when he's starting to feel it. I just hope we see him back as soon as we can. Hopefully, we're playing still."

The Islanders know Nelson is capable of filling the void, but it doesn't make the loss of Lee any less painful.

Video: DET@NYI: Tavares finds Nelson for goal in 1st period

Lee, who scored 25 goals as a rookie last season, wasn't scoring at the pace he would have liked, but he was showing signs with three goals in his past six games.

"It's a tough one for me," Capuano said. "This is a guy that's just starting to come here in the last month and a half. You don't lose a 225-, 230-pound guy that size, that net-front presence, that power-play presence. We're going to have to find a way to move on without him. It's just unfortunate, the timing of everything and how hard he's worked.

"We're in this position [of making the playoffs] because of him too. We just hope that he heals well and gets better and I know our guys will try to rebound around him for him."

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