Kyle Okposo aims for spot on U.S. Olympic team

Kyle Okposo takes part in a press conference Kyle Okposo takes part in a press conference introducing the 2014 U.S. Olympic hockey team candidates at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex. (Aug. 27, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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ARLINGTON, Va. - Kyle Okposo's wife is expected to deliver the couple's first child, a daughter, around Jan. 1, about when the U.S. Hockey Team will announce its roster for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

So perhaps the 25-year-old right wing, the only Islander invited to the United States orientation camp here, would prefer to skip the two-week trip to stay with his family? Just the opposite. He'll want to be in Russia even more, "just to be able to get some sleep,'' Okposo said with a laugh.

Kidding aside, Okposo, who was born in St. Paul, Minn., and has played in five international tournaments, dearly wants to wear an American jersey again. "The Olympics,'' he said, "would be another level.''

The competition to make the team, which will have four or five right wings, will be enormous. Okposo knows his play in October, November and December will have to be even better than his finish last season, when he had nine points in the final 11 games and was 3-1-4 in six playoff games.

"I had some personal success toward the end of the year,'' he said, "but I struggled in the first half, so it was nice to get invited.''

The larger surface in Sochi would be familiar to Okposo, who played on an Olympic sheet at the University of Minnesota. "The angles are different, but you're still trying to put the puck in the net and people are still trying to stop you,'' he said. "Most of us have played on big ice, so there's no real advantage.''

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Making the cut, Okposo said, "is going to be in the back of your mind, but what's going to dictate you being on the team is how you play with your NHL club. It's definitely motivation.''

The Islanders also should be motivated. "The division didn't get any easier in the offseason [with Washington, Carolina and Columbus added], but that's good for us,'' Okposo said. "We're going in with higher expectations. Last year, we wanted to make the playoffs. Our expectations are to make a run this year.''

The Islanders want to become a Stanley Cup contender before they shift to the Barclays Center in 2015.

"I'm excited to see it [Barclays]" when the Isles face the Devils on Sept. 21. "We have a loyal fan base on Long Island, and some are upset that we're leaving, but we're not going to Kansas City, we're going right down the road. Brooklyn's a hopping spot right now.''

The same could be said for Sochi this winter.

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