Josh Bailey’s entry into the coveted 1,000 games club has been delayed.
The Islanders scratched the veteran winger on Saturday for their 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning just three games short of his 1,000th career game in favor of Nikita Soshinkov, who is in his first year with the team after being signed from the KHL in Russia.
“We just needed a spark,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said after the game. “It was a good opportunity to put Soshnikov in.”
Bailey had not recorded a point in the Islanders’ first four games of the season playing on the third line next to Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Soshnikov provided the prospect of a younger, faster option for a team that has already struggled mightily against quicker teams.
They were thoroughly dominated by the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in a 4-1 loss while being outshot 41-17.
Asked if it was anything Bailey specifically did to warrant the healthy scratch, lambert said the decision did not “really have anything to with it.”
“In terms of their matchups and things like that, we move some people around,” he said.
The 28-year-old Soshnikov struggled to make an impact on Saturday against the Lightning, though. He accrued just 10:26 of ice time, the second-lowest amongst all Islanders skaters, with zero shots and a minus-1 rating. More importantly, he committed the turnover that led to the Lightning’s back-breaking goal with 0.1 seconds left in the second period to make it a 4-2 game.
Bailey’s 1,000th game, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday at UBS Arena against the New York Rangers, is now up in the air given the lack of clarity of Lambert’s lineups.
A quick reintroduction to the lineup would mean his 1,000th game would come on the road in Carolina against the Hurricanes — which would certainly dull what was poised to be a special day for the veteran forward at home. The Islanders return home on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche before a three-game road trip to Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit.
Only two Islanders in franchise history, Bryan Trottier (1,123) and Denis Potvin (1,060) have played 1,000 or more games with the team. In total, 371 players in NHL history have played in at 1,000 or more games — the latest coming on Thursday when Minnesota Wild defenseman Alex Goligoski suited up for his benchmark day against the Vancouver Canucks.