Eberle did not score in his first 10 games, but he now has 12 goals and 22 points overall for the Isles (17-12-3) heading into Saturday’s home game against the Los Angeles Kings.
In recent weeks he has developed chemistry on a line with the sizzling rookie center Mathew Barzal and the veteran left wing Andrew Ladd, who moved his family to Long Island last season when he signed a seven-year free-agent contract.
Eberle was originally envisioned as the right wing on a line with Tavares and Lee, but his shift to the second line has alleviated pressure on Tavares, the team’s leading scorer in seven of his eight seasons with the franchise.
The Islanders are in the playoff mix in a tight Metropolitan Division race, where four points separate the top five teams.
Eberle’s simmering intensity has impressed his coach.
“He’s been really solid, really confident; he’s a quiet leader,” said Doug Weight, a former Oiler whom Eberle looked up to when he was younger. “Jordan has stepped up and accepted every role we have given him in a good way.”
Playing with Ladd has helped Eberle. Their wives have bonded as native Albertans, and Ladd and Eberle are thriving alongside the 20-year-old Barzal, a rookie of the year candidate with 28 points through 32 games, including a five-assist performance against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 5.
“Ebs has become one of my best friends, and Ladd is one of the great leaders I have been around,” Barzal said. “It helps me being a young guy playing with two veterans. They make me feel comfortable.”
Eberle has fallen into the groove of many Long Islanders, riding the train to his workplace in Brooklyn instead of battling relentless traffic.
“The biggest change is taking the train to the game and learning to live that way,” he said. “There’s not as much driving here. It’s nice. I enjoy it.”
His wife had been teaching voice and piano lessons in Calgary in recent years, and the cross-continent move meant she needed to be creative to keep her career thriving.
She conducts music lessons by Skype with her students in Alberta and also travels home for a week each month. She hopes to expand her music teaching to Long Island once her work visa comes through. She acknowledged that the chance to catch a Broadway musical on a whim was a major bonus to their New York life.
Thanks to his wife’s musical profession, Eberle has nurtured hobbies away from the game. She gave him a guitar several birthdays ago.
“I try to play every day,” he said. “It’s something that takes me away from hockey a little bit. Music helps since it means using a different side of the brain.”
Eberle said he was enjoying playing in a less-stressful environment than Edmonton, where the Oilers are in a constant news media spotlight. They made the playoffs only once in his tenure.
“It’s different here, for sure,” he said. “In Edmonton you get recognized everywhere. It’s an adjustment, but I enjoy it.”
The Islanders have reached the postseason three times in the past five seasons but have advanced past the first round only once since 1993. Amid tension about the future of Tavares, who could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, they will need continued production from his supporting cast.
The Islanders also are eager to leave Brooklyn for a proposed new arena at Belmont Park, closer to their former home, Nassau Coliseum, which they left in 2015.
Eberle is eager for high-tension Eastern Conference rivalry games ahead, especially when the Islanders host the Rangers twice at Barclays Center later this season.
While his entire focus is currently on hockey, he is anticipating extra time in the area to play golf next summer on Long Island.
For now, there’s his first Christmas in New York to experience — jam-packed crowds and all. The seasonal snowfall reminds him of home.
“It’s funny how everyone panics here,” he said of a recent dusting in the area. “I’m used to getting 12 feet of snow.”
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