Kyle Okposo ended his 18-game scoring drought with his overtime goal Saturday against the Rangers, but there's still one issue looming for the 21-year-old winger.
That goal-less streak may have seemed endless, but the waiting game Okposo must endure for the next three days might seem equally daunting.
Okposo will not know until Friday, when Team USA releases its Olympic roster at the Winter Classic, whether he'll be headed to Vancouver in February. Until then, he'll hope that what he has shown throughout the first half of the season is enough.
"I think I've played pretty well for the most part of the year," Okposo said. "The points are not where I'd like them to be, but I think I've done other things to help this team win."
Although Okposo leads the Islanders with 20 assists, his numbers are not dazzling. His sixth goal of the season Saturday night came after more than six weeks of action in which he inexplicably could not find the back of the net.
But his contributions extend far beyond statistics. Even during a frustrating month and a half, Okposo elevated his play in other facets of the game. He not only found ways to set up his teammates but served as one of the most integral special-teams components and best defensive forwards.
"It's easy for people to forget the other things he brings to the table," Blake Comeau said. "He leads by example and by the way he steps on the ice every shift. He never quits on a play, he never quits on the puck. So many guys now are one-dimensional, but he's such a versatile player that his role is so broad."
Scott Gordon, an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic team, said the key to Okposo's earning a spot will be proving to the selection committee that he can serve a specific role, be a part of the "right mix."
"A lot of energy. Skill, too, but mainly hard work," Okposo said of what he could contribute. "I just want to win."
Gordon and Comeau hope he'll get that chance. "I don't see anyone more deserving than Kyle," Comeau said. "They shouldn't forget what he means to this team, to this organization. He makes each guy he plays with better. And that's the type of player you want on your team."
"I know how much he gives to our team," Gordon said. "It would be nice to see him rewarded. He's certainly a deserving candidate."
What would a spot on the Olympic team mean to Okposo?
"It would mean a lot," he said. "Every kid grows up watching the Olympics and hoping to be a part of it. I've been fortunate enough to represent Team USA[for the U.S. junior team in 2006-07 and 2007-08, and for the men's championship in 2008-09] before. To wear that logo on my chest again would be pretty special."