NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Islanders will see a familiar and welcome face in Florida on Friday. Kyle Okposo is scheduled to be back with the team.
Okposo has been skating on his own this week on Long Island and is ready to rejoin his Islanders teammates, likely for Saturday's morning skate before their game against the Panthers.
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Okposo has been out since surgery to repair a detached retina on Jan. 20, an absence that has been keenly felt: The Islanders are 11-8-1 in the 20 games Okposo has missed, including Thursday night's 4-3 win over the Predators.
Okposo had 14 goals and 30 assists in the first 46 games of the season and was on a tear heading into the All-Star break, with a four-goal game against the Penguins a week earlier. No one can pinpoint when he suffered the retina injury, or even if it came during a game. He had some pain in his right eye and went to get it checked out as the All-Star break began and before he was to travel to the Bahamas for former teammate Andrew MacDonald's wedding.
The surgery was sudden, and necessary for Okposo to have a chance to return before the end of the regular season. Now that he will practice with the team starting on Saturday, that return is much closer to happening, though it's unlikely that Okposo will play either against the Panthers on Saturday or in Toronto on Monday.
Okposo won't be alone on his flight down to South Florida. Newly acquired Tyler Kennedy will rejoin the Isles two days after he was sent back to New York for evaluation.
Kennedy was to make his Isles debut on Tuesday but told Jack Capuano he couldn't go because of an upper-body injury. The Islanders sent Kennedy to New York to be examined by their medical staff and he was given at least the clearance to rejoin the squad for the rest of the trip. His playing availability has yet to be determined.
Cizikas back in
Casey Cizikas made the trek to Nashville on Wednesday after skating with Okposo for a few days and went right into the lineup Thursday night with Matt Martin suspended for the game. Cizikas logged 7:22 of ice time.
"With what happened to Marty, they asked if I could go and I said yes, simple as that,'' said Cizikas, who missed eight games with a lower-body injury. "If I were going to hurt the team, I wouldn't be out there.''
Cizikas tried to play through his injury, believed to have occurred on a blocked shot, for a couple of games before needing time off. "My body was telling me I needed to stay off it,'' he said. "I had time to let it heal and now I'm ready to get back in.''