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Eberle should spark Islanders offense, Lee says

Forwards expected to flank Tavares on top line this season

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- New York Islanders forward Anders Lee joked that forward Jordan Eberle should be used to scoring in blue and orange at this point -- or at least he hopes he is. 

"It's an easy jersey transition from Edmonton to New York in that sense, I guess," Lee said between games in Da Beauty League, where a host of NHL players with ties to Minnesota are playing games for charity twice a week through Aug. 23 at Braemar Arena. "We just hope the goals keep coming with the Islanders logo on the front."

New York acquired Eberle, 27, from the Edmonton Oilers in a trade for forward Ryan Strome on June 22. The No. 22 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, Eberle spent the first seven seasons of his NHL career in Edmonton. He has 382 points (165 goals, 217 assists) in 507 games.

"Obviously, [Eberle's] had a great career and he brings a lot of offense to our team," Lee said. "Watching him play throughout the years, it's pretty evident he can make a play anywhere, and it'll be exciting to get to know him and be on the same team."

Eberle, a five-time 20-goal scorer, is expected to play on the Islanders top line with center John Tavares, his teammate with Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship, and the World Championship in 2010, '11 and '12. Tavares has one year remaining on his contract with New York.

Lee enters his sixth NHL season and is projected to be the left wing on the top unit. He had 52 points (34 goals, 18 assists) in 81 games last season, and the Islanders hope the three will form a potent scoring threat. New York ranked 10th in the League in goals scored (239) and averaged 2.91 goals per game.

The Islanders averaged 30.2 shots per game (16th). Eberle had 208 shots, good for 52nd. Tavares, with 260, was the only Islander with more.

Video: EDM@COL: Eberle roofs nifty goal from the circle

"[Eberle's] bringing a right-handed shot as a forward that can obviously shoot and score from anywhere," Lee said. "He's a playmaker out on the ice and sees the ice extremely well. He can add some extra threats for us on the power play that can really help elevate us."

Eberle's numbers have fluctuated slightly since his NHL arrival in 2010. He hasn't replicated a career-high 76-point season (2011-12) but has come into his own as a player on the offensive and defensive side of the puck. He has two 60-point seasons, and his 51 points in 2016-17 was an improvement from his 47 in 2015-16. 

"As a person, I've definitely grown," Eberle said following the trade in June. "As a player, I like to think that especially last year, the coaches have done a good job of molding my game into a two-dimensional game. I've gotten better defensively and in the playoffs, we played a very defensive role on that line. 

"In that aspect, I like to think I've grown in two ways."

Lee expects Eberle to be a good fit for the Islanders, who aim to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs following a fifth-place finish in the Metropolitan Division last season.

"It's another year of maturity for this whole group," Lee said. "For the most part, we're a pretty similar team as last year, and we made a really great push at the end after a really bad start. It's at that point where we expect more from ourselves and we expect to be playing after the regular season.

"Eberle is going to come in and help that. He's the type of guy that can help us all elevate our game. I'm excited to have him as a part of our team."

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