Islanders' Okposo back, ready to win

Kyle Okposo talks with reporters at the Nassau Kyle Okposo talks with reporters at the Nassau Coliseum as the team cleans out their lockers. Photo Credit: Ed Betz, 2011

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It's difficult to remember that Kyle Okposo managed to play 38 games last season. He missed the first four months of 2010-11 after a freak injury during a special-teams scrimmage a week into last season's training camp required shoulder surgery.

Once he was back, the Islanders were effectively out of the playoff race, thanks to the 1-17-3 slide in November and December. And Okposo, who had such a strong 2009-10 and was being discussed as a future captain and NHL All-Star, never could find a groove in that half a season of play.

"I found myself trying to do the little things that I'd been able to do in the past, but everything was half a step off," said Okposo, who had five goals and 15 assists in those 38 games last season. The Islanders were 16-16-6 in the games he played. "I was pretty much just trying to get my bearings back."

What's curious, even during his slow slog of that half-season, is how well Okposo meshed with two of last season's breakout players, Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner. Those two formed a potent penalty-killing combination and played well off one another with Okposo on the left side.

"We had success," Okposo said. "It's a testament to how well Frans and Grabs played last season."

Okposo joined 46 teammates in Saturday's opening of training camp, which featured the dreaded on-ice conditioning drills. The 23-year-old was still smiling after the hour of heavy skating -- a testament to his hard work this offseason and his joy at being pain-free and feeling the bad luck that sidelined him and defenseman Mark Streit within 48 hours last training camp is in the past.

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"You see him now, he's in sick shape and he looks really ready," Nielsen said. "I think we're going to have a lot better year as a group, the three of us. We have to have a better year if we want to make the playoffs."

Okposo, who signed a five-year, $14-million contract in the offseason, is still a possibility to be awarded the captain's 'C' when Jack Capuano and his staff select a captain, but he's fairly unconcerned. He and the rest of the young core of Islanders that he quietly leads know what they want to accomplish this year, and it's not about individual goals.

"I'm sure we'll talk about it in here as camp goes on," he said, "but everybody knows it's time. Enough has been said about rebuilding. It's time to win."

Notes & quotes: Rookie D Mark Katic will have surgery Monday to repair a dislocated left shoulder and may miss the entire season. Katic, 22, had surgery on the same shoulder 19 months ago . . . C Marty Reasoner, signed as a free agent in July, left the conditioning drills with a sore knee. He'll try to skate today, when the team has off-ice meetings scheduled. Also missing the drills were young Fs Mitchell Theoret and Rhett Rakhshani, who both have concussions and are out indefinitely.

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