Tambellini Ready to Step Up
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Sunday, September 23, 2007

After two cups of coffee with the Islanders the past two seasons, forward Jeff Tambellini isn’t in the mood for another one this season.

His objective in 2008: make the team and stay there.

After a solid training camp last season, Tambellini managed to find himself on the Isles opening night roster, but was quickly shipped back to Bridgeport when Andy Hilbert established himself on a line with Mike Sillinger and Trent Hunter. Leading the Isles minor league affiliate in points last year, Tambellini has proved he can score consistently in the AHL and looks ready to be a regular in the NHL.

The only question is, can he stay on the Island for the whole season this year?

Playing on a line with sniper Miroslav Satan and the newly acquired Josef Vasicek for most of training camp, Tambellini sees good things in his future.

"Miro is an elite player in this league and Vasicek is kind of like [former Islander Viktor] Kozlov, a big center," Tambellini said on the team’s official website. "My goal is to get these guys the puck as much as I can, get open and get in on the forecheck and really use my speed.”

Scoring nine points in 23 games last season, Tambellini showed the poise and determination that is needed for a player his size to thrive in the NHL. At five-foot-eleven, 192 pounds, the former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings knows what his role will be this season and is setting lofty expectations for himself, should he gets adequate playing time.

“With the loss of Blakey [former Islander Jason Blake, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs this offseason], that's a role I'm going to look to get into,” he said on the team’s official website. “I want to be a player who can jump into that small, speed role and bring that to our club."

There’s a few big differences between Blake and Tambellini however.

Scoring over 20 goals over the past four seasons, Blake took his time developing into a first line player after being looked at as a fourth line pest during the early stages of his career, while the Islanders lethargic offense this season calls for Tambellini to develop much quicker than Blake did. Tambellini may also have a problem cracking the lineup because of Isles coach Ted Nolan’s insistence to play established players on the Island and let the youngsters develop in the AHL.

The only reason why Tambellini even got a chance with the team last season was because of injuries to Alexei Yashin, Shawn Bates and the suspension of Chris Simon. If not for that, the speedy winger may have been in Bridgeport all season.

In order for Tambellini to set himself apart from the crowd of talented youngsters vying to make the team this season, he’ll have to make Nolan and the Islanders have no doubt in their minds about his ability to play in the NHL.

Otherwise, he’ll be at Starbucks, sampling a white chocolate mocha on his way back to Bridgeport, again.