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High-scoring rookie forward Lee is Islanders X-factor

by Brian Compton /

Left wing Anders Lee was the victim of a numbers game at the start of the 2014-15 season. Instead of being with the New York Islanders, he started the season in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Lee took the demotion in stride and was back with the Islanders within two weeks. Since then, the 6-foot-3, 227-pounds forward has garnered consideration for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie; he finished second among first-year players with 25 goals.

"It's been a really good year," Lee said. "I think I'd be ecstatic to look where I'm at right now. If I asked myself if I'd be in this spot at the end of the year, would I be happy? I think absolutely. I think I'd take that. It was a little bit hectic at first, but things settled down and have fallen into place."

Lee hit a bit of a dry spell in the second half of the season. He ended a 10-game drought Tuesday with two goals in a 5-4 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers, suggesting the fortuitous bounces could return just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If that's the case, Lee would play a huge role in determining whether or not the Islanders advance to the second round for the first time since 1993.

"When it's a combination of not winning and things aren't going your way, that's when you get frustrated," Lee said. "That's when it kind of came to the forefront a little bit. But it happens almost every year, so it's not that big of a deal. Maybe if I can save some for playoffs, that would be alright with me."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano was impressed with the way Lee has handled himself in his first season, during the good and the bad times. Capuano is confident Lee will be a contributor for New York in the postseason.

"We had some good meetings with him over the last week," Capuano said. "You just get into a situation where it's not even confidence, it's just anything that you do doesn't go your way. I think we've all been that way in sports or life in general where no matter what you do, it backfires on you.

"At this time of year, it's all about mental durability. That's where it starts. Everybody's banged up physically, but I think the mental side of things is where he was starting to feel it. But he's in a good place right now."

Lee played in two games during the 2012-13 season, the Islanders' most-recent appearance in the playoffs. He did not play in New York's first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, so he's eager to get a taste of postseason hockey at Nassau Coliseum before the Islanders move to Brooklyn this fall.

He's hoping to create his own Coliseum moment.

"It would be incredible. This is the only home I've known at this level," Lee said. "It's really been a fun year. It's awesome the way the fans have shown up this year and really had our backs the whole year through has been awesome. The crowds have been really fun."


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