Islanders need Kyle Okposo to find his game
Where Okposo goes from his first healthy scratch is up to Jack Capuano. The Islanders, in the midst of a 1-7-3 skid, face the Canadiens Thursday night, the Bruins on Saturday and have four games in six days next week. Okposo, despite a 22-game goal drought that dates to last March, could be someone to help the offense-challenged Isles get back on track.
First, Okposo needs to get himself back on track. He had no goals, three assists and a minus-7 rating in 14 games before being benched. He's viewed video of his play this season, last season and the two seasons prior, when he was poised to become a gritty star on a team in need of top-level talent.
"I've analyzed it all. Maybe I'm doing too much of it and maybe I just need to go and play," Okposo said after the Islanders practiced at the Coliseum Wednesday. "I know what I have to do when I get back in the lineup."
Capuano still has a few candidates to pull out so Okposo can get back in. Nino Niederreiter, who made his season debut in Okposo's spot on Tuesday, looked comfortable on the ice and threw his weight around.
That leaves Blake Comeau, without a point in 13 games, and veterans Brian Rolston or Jay Pandolfo. Matt Martin said a sore pectoral muscle suffered during his second-period fight on Tuesday is fine, so he will likely play.
"We know we have to have secondary scoring, and we have guys who can do it," Capuano said. "They've done it before."
But not this season. Okposo, who signed a five-year, $14-million deal this summer, said sitting out gave him a "different perspective, and sometimes that's a good thing." He didn't seem to believe that, though, and Okposo's most passionate statement Wednesday concerned getting back in the lineup, not dissecting a game he missed.
"There's no excuses," he said. "I've just got to go and play. Everybody who understands hockey understands what I mean."