Islanders’ Josh Bailey comes up big despite diminished role

It would be easy for Josh Bailey to complain.

The 33-year-old, just a few games into the season, was a healthy scratch — moving his 1,000th game from a home date against the Rangers to a road game.

His role has largely been diminished, with Bailey sometimes finding himself on the fourth line.

In the first period on Tuesday, he played just 0:44 at even strength.

Whether those decisions are justified or not, Bailey has the status to throw a tantrum.

He’s third in franchise history in games played, top five in assists, top 15 in goals.

His number might eventually be retired.

Instead, here he was in the dressing room on Tuesday after scoring a crucial goal and netting the game-winning assist in the Islanders’ biggest win of the season, 3-2 over the Sabres, joking about how he hadn’t heard fans sing his goal song so loud “since the Coli.”

Josh Bailey
Josh Bailey scores in the Islanders’ 3-2 win over the Sabres.
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There’s a reason Bailey wears an “A” on his uniform and is so well-liked in the dressing room. This is why.

“Yeah it’s different,” he admitted, regarding his role. “I think at the same time, you’re just trying to stay focused and in the game and ready for when your number’s called. That’s really just been my mindset. When your number’s called, make sure you’re ready and give it my best.”

That was what Bailey did on Tuesday, jumping onto a loose puck for a backhand goal 1:51 into the third to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.

After the Sabres tied it, he blindly shot a puck from the point, hoping it would hit something.

It went off Hudson Fasching’s knee and into the goal for a 3-2 lead, the initial call being confirmed after a review.

“I wasn’t aiming for anything,” Bailey said. “Just a quick shot tip from the point, You’re just trying to hopefully get it on net. You hope for some good bounces too.”

This performance is unlikely to change his role. And it’s unlikely Bailey will care about that.

“You can’t say enough about him,” coach Lane Lambert said. “And it’s just his character. It’s his personality and it’s his character. He’s a quality character individual who comes to work, no matter what.

“And sometimes maybe it’s not exactly what he’s looking for or he wants but at the end of the day, he just comes out and does his job. At the end of the day, full respect for him and I’m glad that he was rewarded.”

Though Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a practice participant on Monday, he did not play Tuesday as Otto Koivula continued to center the fourth line.

Lambert described Pageau as day-to-day and did not say whether he would travel to Pittsburgh for Thursday’s game.