Thanksgiving -- and Christmas -- will come early for Kyle Okposo. His welcome home party was scheduled to start Thursday night when the Islanders arrived in St. Paul, Minn., where Okposo was raised.

The Islanders will play the Minnesota Wild Friday night with a large group of Okposo's family, friends and neighbors in the seats at Excel Energy Center.

"There is a big homecoming,'' Michelle Okposo, Kyle's mother, said in a phone interview. "We are having a pre-full-out Thanksgiving with all of his aunts and uncles and cousins. It is at his uncle's new house, which Kyle hasn't seen yet.''

Mrs. Okposo said this is the eighth straight year her son will not be home for the holidays, so the celebration takes place based on the Islanders' schedule. "We have a tradition,'' she said, "we call it a very happy Kyle Thanksgiving or a very merry Kyle Christmas.'' This time, it will encompass both.

Michelle Okposo will also host a party in Kyle's honor before the game. "They'll be about 60 people,'' she said. "Old friends, neighbors, core family. We open gifts and all that good stuff.''

Kyle Okposo was a bit chagrined that anyone outside the family was privy to the "very Kyle'' doings, but he thoroughly enjoys the attention, saying "it is always fun and playing at home and going back there will be a good time.''

The situation was a bit frantic just about two years ago when Okposo, now 21, left for the Islanders organization in December of his sophomore year at the University of Minnesota. In a controversial move, Okposo joined the franchise that drafted him in 2006. It was not a unilateral decision on Okposo's part. At the time, Islanders general manger Garth Snow said he was not pleased with the way the college hockey team was handling Okposo.

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"It was obviously not the best situation to be in,'' Okposo said. "But I tried to make the most of it and just play hockey because that is what my ultimate goal was, just play and have fun. [But] it was definitely a different situation that I wasn't expecting to be in.''

Okposo's parents, registered pharmacists, set a premium on their son's education and had some trepidation about him leaving school. "Absolutely,'' his mom said, "the philosophy of his dad and I were to have both kids go to college."

But that did not mean they objected to his decision. "As parents it is our job to provide the resources and support for the child to realize his passion," his mother said.