With only a little more than two weeks away until the start of Islanders training camp, several players have already arrived on Long Island.

I swung by IceWorks in Syosset today and a bunch of the guys organized their own scrimmage this morning to prepare and get back to game shape.

Among those on the ice (and fair warning, I'm likely leaving a few out):

Kyle Okposo, Bruno Gervais, Frans Nielsen, Andrew MacDonald, Jon Sim, Nino Niederreiter, David Ullstrom, Travis Hamonic, Kevin Poulin, Mark Eaton, Chris Higgins (FLA), Mark Katic, Kirill Kabanov, Rhett Rakhshani, and Tony Romano.

So basically a pretty full house.

Newcomers Milan Jurcina and Zenon Konopka, as well as goaltender Rick DiPietro were also around but not on the ice. DiPietro skated yesterday, I was told.

Figure most everyone will be there next week after the holiday weekend comes to a close.

Had a chance to catch up with Gervais, among others, to ask about what he thought about the team's off-season moves to bolster their defense.

"It's great. We've got eight defensemen now on one-ways and each one brings something a little different to the table, so that will create a great inside challenge on the team for playing time. That's what you want."

Gervais said he felt he had his best off-season to date. Besides being less bruised and broken down at season's end sompared previous years, Gervais also slimmed down a bit and adopted a pretty healthy dietary regimen this summer and said he feels much better as a result. Gervais' girlfriend recently took a nutrition course which prompted him to cut out dairy and red meat. The result? He's down to 198 lbs and said he feels lighter and faster on the ice.

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Gervais knows it will be imperative to make a good impression in training camp to earn his ice time and he hopes that helps.

"I want to stay strong, move the puck and skate well now that I feel lighter and faster. The division is going to be a lot tougher, so I want to bring a more physical aspect to my game as well. I just want to be steady defensively and strong in my own zone."

Hopefully, Gervais said, the team's defense can help the Islanders make that next step.

"I'm sick of the "rebuilding" thing. I want us to be a playoff team," he said. "Yes, we have a young core, but we have a young core that's ready to go."

***Gervais has already been busy off the ice while doing charity work with the Long Island community. In addition to his recent hospital visit to visit kids with Leukemia, Gervais is helping with the Clark Gillies Foundation through their "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" event. Gervais, who has already raised $1410, will be shaving his head September 19 for the fundraiser. To learn more go to www.clarkgillies.org