Josh Bailey remained optimistic Friday about being demoted to the Islanders’ fourth line, joking about how few games he had played with Matt Martin, but coach Lane Lambert didn’t mince words when pressed on why Bailey was dropped down in favor of Simon Holmstrom.
“A result of us trying to find solutions to not winning hockey games,” Lambert said before the Islanders went out and won a hockey game, 2-0 over the Red Wings at UBS Arena.
For a coach who has had zero interest this season in calling out individual players, that might be as close as Lambert ever gets to doing so. Bailey skated with Martin and Aatu Raty on Friday, while Holmstrom moved up to the third line with Zach Parise and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
And though he got time on both special-teams units, Bailey finished the night with a team-low 7:44 at even strength, with Holmstrom and Raty, the Islanders’ youngsters at forward, getting more than eight minutes apiece.
That came exactly a month after Bailey last scored a goal, on Dec. 27 against the Penguins, and one game after he played his fewest minutes since early November. The Islanders aren’t in a position to be sitting the veteran winger with multiple forwards still out injured, but if they eventually do get healthy, it’s hard to expect Bailey to retain his spot in the lineup.
The 33-year-old has scored just six times this season and has 19 total points. His average time on ice has declined by more than a minute per game from last season. Early in the season, Lambert already made him a healthy scratch for a game at Tampa Bay.
Bailey, who has played more than 1,000 games in an Islanders uniform, has stayed professional in the face of a diminishing role. On Friday, he paid compliments to his new linemates.
“I honestly maybe recall one [game playing with Martin],” he said. “Years ago after coming back from injury, I think we were on a line for one game. But we’ve had shifts here and there, and obviously we’re good friends, so hopefully that can translate.”
Mathew Barzal, who has not scored since Jan. 5, told The Post prior to his third straight game skating with Casey Cizikas and Anthony Beauvillier that it is his responsibility to make things click with a rotating cast of linemates.
“I’m OK with it. I kinda think it’s on me to create with whoever I’m with,” he said. “I’m trying and unfortunately lately it just hasn’t been there. It was there for a little while. Just hasn’t been there lately.”
Hudson Fasching (lower body) and Noah Dobson (lower body) both missed the game and are expected to be out Saturday against the Golden Knights. Neither is skating.