New York Islanders forward Ryan Strome had 50 points as a rookie last season. It was a main reason why general manager Garth Snow didn't add a premier wing to skate with John Tavares, with the expectation Strome simply would take another step in his second season.
But Strome struggled early to the point where he was demoted to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League for three weeks in November. He finished the NHL season with eight goals and 20 assists in 71 games.
He responded at the start of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Florida Panthers with a goal and an assist in New York's 5-4 win in Game 1. But in Games 5 and 6, the Islanders' first back-to-back wins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2002, Strome was a healthy scratch.
"It [stinks]," Strome said Sunday morning, hours after the Islanders wrapped up the series. "You want to be there for your teammates and you think you can contribute. You want to give it your best. I think the one thing I'll always have with me for my career, no matter what happens, is I'm a good teammate. I love the team. You just want them to win."
The Islanders likely will begin the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning without forward Josh Bailey, who sustained an undisclosed injury in Game 6. That should provide another opportunity for Strome, and one has to think he'll do everything he can to take advantage.
"I certainly didn't see it coming," Strome said of being scratched. "I'm not going to lie and say I did. I thought I've been playing pretty good hockey, and definitely more of where I wanted to be compared to the regular season. It's their decision and I just have to live by it.
Video: NYI@FLA, Gm1: Strome nets a rebound past Luongo
"Hopefully I can get another chance and can contribute. There's not really much I can say. You want to try to be as vague as possible and just try to stay positive. This is not really the time to have an ego … and start complaining."
But if Strome replaces Bailey, one would think he'll have fire in his belly, a willingness to do whatever Islanders coach Jack Capuano asks and, considering his skill, contribute offensively when chances present themselves.
"We need guys that compete at a high level shift after shift," Capuano said. "Those are decisions as a staff that you make. Ryan knows that he's got to compete harder."