Kyle Okposo is slated to return to the Islanders' lineup Tuesday night against the Rangers after missing 22 games following eye surgery.
"It's a pretty fun game to come back to," he said at the morning skate. "I'm looking forward to getting back on the ice with the boys."
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Despite missing more than a quarter of the season, Okposo is second on the team in points with 14 goals and 30 assists.See alsoIsles vs. Rangers: Who's better where?
"Any time that you're hurt, it's tough to watch the guys," the right wing said. "You feel like you want to be out there."
Okposo said his left eye, which required emergency surgery to repair a detached retina feels "good," and that he "wouldn't be playing if it wasn't. It's ready to go." Okposo injured the eye against the Flyers on Jan. 19 and had surgery the following day.
Okposo said he was "not sure" if he would be returning to the Islanders' first line. "I just know that I'm in the lineup."
John Tavares said Okposo's return would be a "huge boost" for the team.
"He was playing great before the injury so I know how anxious he is to get back," said Tavares, who leads the NHL with 72 points.
"The guys have really been supportive," Okposo said. "It's a great, tight-knit group we've got here and I'm just excited to be back and part of it.
"We've got a good squad. One person isn't going to change everything. We just kind of kept on trucking and other guys stepped their games up. Obviously, it starts with John. He's been unbelievable since the All-Star break. The rest of the team has played great."
Okposo's return comes at a key time for the Islanders (43-21-4), who lead the Rangers (40-17-7) by three points in the Metropolitan Division, but also have played four more games.
"Barring a postseason visit, this is the last game [between to the two teams at Nassau Coliseum]," Okposo said. "It's been a little bit nostalgic this year, everything that's happened at the Coliseum, from opening night to this game. It's just kind of another chapter. We're looking forward to the challenge."
The Islanders won their first three games against the Rangers this season, before losing a 6-5 thriller at the Coliseum on Feb. 16.
"It's another game for us [but] obviously it's a big one," Okposo said. "I'm just excited to get in the game and try to help the team."