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New York Islanders

Bailey Gets Critical, Vital Chance With Islanders Newest Duo



New York Islanders, Josh Bailey

With the acquisition of Bo Horvat, the New York Islanders now have given Mathew Barzal a linemate of his caliber for the first time in his seven-year career. With the Horvat eight-year extension on Sunday, the Islanders may have given Barzal a linemate he may have for the rest of his Islanders NHL career.

Through all the hype from the fan base about the Islanders locking up Bo Horvat and the thought of what could be with him alongside Mat Barzal, there was a tremendous amount of concern regarding Josh Bailey, who will fill out that line as the left-winger…for now.

“This is a great opportunity for him,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said following Monday’s morning skate when asked if this is a chance for Bailey to get going. “Yeah, we’re certainly looking forward to that happening.”

Bailey has just six goals and 13 assists this season, playing up and down the lineup. He’s been on the ice with Barzal for 283:40 minutes this season, outscoring opponents 17-7. But, per, the Islanders were expected to be outscored when these two were on the ice, being outshot 157-146, and allowing 20 more scoring chances then earned.

Adding Horvat to the mix changes a bit of how that Barzal line needs to play, and Lambert was direct in what he needs to see from Bailey.

“Moving his feet, getting in forechecking, and when he gets the puck, he has the ability to make plays. We know his intellect and his intelligence level, and he should be a good fit with those guys.”

Horvat got to play with Bailey at the 2018 Worlds and spoke on his game.

“He’s got tremendous skill and playmaking ability. He’s just a super smart player. So again, looking forward to playing with him as well.”

READ MORE: The Newest Islanders Duo Ready to Debut

With Hudson Fasching (IR) expected to return to the lineup Monday night against the Philadelphia Flyers and Simon Holmstrom playing solid hockey, the Islanders are one player away, whether it’s acquiring one via trade or a player returning from injury, before Bailey could find himself out of the starting lineup.

Right now, Lambert doesn’t have other options.

Bailey struggled in 2021-22 but so did most of the entire Islanders group. The then 32-year-old played in 74 of the 82 games, with 14 goals and 32 assists, and didn’t seem as sharp in regards to passing, which has been his bread and butter.

This season, Bailey has struggled mightily in all areas of the ice, even being a healthy scratch for a handful of games. His first time as a healthy scratch, coming against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 22, pushed the date of his 1,000th NHL game back a day from a rivalry night against the New York Rangers at UBS Arena to a game against the Hurricanes in Carolina.

It was a questionable move by head coach Lane Lambert, but showcased that Lambert wasn’t worrying about a personal milestone and saw it as an important time to send a message after the Islanders had been embarrassed on home ice against the Devils in a 4-1 loss two days prior.

As we saw with Anthony Beauvillier in his final week on the island, this could be Bailey’s last chance to prove not only that he can play with Barzal and produce, but that he deserves one of the spots in the starting 12.

The New York Islanders need to have a strong final 30 games to make the postseason, and there is no room for passengers.


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