Bailey brings winning back to Long Island

NHLHS New York Islanders Correspondent Christian Arnold looks at the improved play of Josh Bailey since rejoinging the Islanders

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 23: Josh Bailey  of the New York Islanders plays the puck against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 23, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It was November 24 when Islanders 3rd year player Josh Bailey was sent down to AHL Bridgeport by Garth Snow and the Islanders coaching staff. At the time he was hovering at having played 159 games for the Islanders and one more would have meant that Bailey would have to clear waivers to play in the AHL.

Prior to that day the former first round pick for the New York Islanders had played his entire career at the NHL level.

Nearly a month later, or eleven games later, Josh Bailey was back on the Ice for the New York Islanders. “Garth told me to go home, see my family and if something changes, he’d let me know,” Bailey told Arthur Staple of Newsday prior to Wednesday’s game. “Obviously, something changed. It was great to come in here and see the guys smiling and be excited to be back.” Bailey was back at home in Ontario when he got the call that he would be coming back to Long Island.

After an impressive 11 game run in Bridgeport, in which he scored 6 goals and tallied 11 assists, Bailey was ready and more confident to take on the Lightning Wednesday night. “I just tried to make the most of it, tried to get my confidence back and poise and patients with the puck back,” Bailey said after the Islanders 2-1 win over the Lightning. “I’ve always been a passer first so I tried to get that back in my game and tried to bring it into the game tonight.”

It was clear early Wednesday night that Bailey had regained some pep in his step. Late in the First Bailey had a clean shot at Ellis but could not get it by him and then again in the second period Bailey was able to gain speed on the right win, put a skilled move on defensemen Victor Hedman and then nearly put it past the left leg of Ellis. However both shot were turned away.

Thursday night against the Devils, Bailey continued to look improved. Early in first period Josh Bailey scored his first goal since returning to New York when he picked off a sloppy pass from Jamie Langenbrunner and put the back hander past Martin Brodeur. Then Bailey would get another goal, this time coming on the power play, putting an Andrew MacDonald rebound past Brodeur. And to capping off what was an outstanding offensive night for the Bailey was an assist on a Frans Nielson goal. Bailey originally was off on break away, but was hauled down by Kovalchuk. Nielson was trailing the play and tallied the third Islanders goal.

But it wasn’t just his offensive game that impressed head coach Jack Capuano, as well as fellow teammate Travis Hamonic, but it was also his time on the penalty kill. “He was huge on the penalty kill and he created a lot of offensive chances here,” Hamonic said after the Wednesday night win. It was something that Jack Capuano noticed not only but utilized both Wednesday night and Thursday night, rewarding Bailey with 3:34 on the penalty kill Wednesday and increased his time to 4:43 Thursday.

“He was one of our best players tonight and that’s why he was used in certain situations on the penalty kill,” Capuano told the media following Bailey’s first game back. “We talked about Josh coming back from Bridgeport driving his legs, skating, being creative, and making the plays that Josh Bailey does. He had a couple of turn over’s tonight but he did a lot of good things tonight and that’s the Josh Bailey we need for the rest of the year.”

There was no time table given to Bailey on when he would return to NHL action. So he made the most of his time with the Sound Tigers. “I was just taking it day by day and trying to get better each day,” said Bailey. It would seem as he did just that; get better. His 6 goals in 11 games was a nice improvement, but the past two games would also indicate that he has regained that confidence and vision he once had.

Although some would have expected his transition from the minors back to the pros a tough one, but the young pro has made his seamless. “It’s pretty tough to just step in right away but he’s a two and a half year veteran coming back,” Hamonic said. “He played a really good game and that’s what we need from him. He’s a good player and he is going to be a key part of this team.”

“Obviously for anyone there is an adjustment,” Bailey said when he was asked about the subject. “It’s a different league, it’s tougher to play in, tougher to produce points in this league, and tougher to get wins. It’s nothing I’m not use to going into my third year here.”

Bailey put it simple when asked how it felt to be back. It felt good,” responded Bailey. “We played well obviously and it was nice to get back in the mix with the guys.”

It would seem as though Santa gave Josh Bailey an early Christmas gift this year. One can only assume the 20 year old forward was more than pleased to get to rejoin the Islanders. With all that being said Josh Bailey can enjoy his Christmas break knowing that he came back to the NHL with a bang.