GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kyle Okposo is out for Saturday’s game against the Coyotes as well as Monday’s game at Barclays Center against the Ducks but hopes those will be the only games he’ll miss. A lower-body injury that has been hampering him has forced Okposo, who leads the Islanders with 26 points, into a mandated rest period heading into the five-day holiday break.
“I’ve been dealing with it for a little bit and I just don’t want to have it linger,” Okposo said after his teammates practiced at Gila River Arena on Friday. “I’ve got some time to recuperate and let my body heal. I don’t want this to linger all year.”
Okposo hasn’t seemed to be bothered too much by anything this season. Like most of his teammates, the right wing hasn’t scored in the past two games, but he had a superb week before that with five points in three games along with a shootout winner in Philadelphia.
The temptation of rest now plus the time off next week — the Islanders will scatter on Tuesday and won’t meet up again until Saturday — was too great to weigh against Okposo playing hurt the rest of the way.
“We need him, no doubt about it,” coach Jack Capuano said. “That’s our top-line right wing, a top power-play guy. Hopefully he’ll get the rest he needs and we’ll evaluate him again after the break.”
These breaks haven’t been kind to Okposo lately. He left for the All-Star break last season among the top scorers in the NHL, but emergency surgery to repair a detached retina turned his season upside down.
Now, in the final year of his contract, something seemingly less serious has cropped up, and the Islanders hope to head it off before it gets serious.
Anders Lee, who has no goals in his past 12 games, was bumped up to take Okposo’s spot on the top line with John Tavares and Josh Bailey. That was the Isles’ main top line during Okposo’s 22-game absence last season.
“I had some success with those guys last year, so it brings some confidence for me,” Lee said. “It’s another chance to go out and make a difference.”
Notes & quotes: Capuano said his other forward lines to start Saturday’s game will feature Frans Nielsen between Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome, Nikolay Kulemin-Mikhail Grabovski-Steve Bernier and the usual fourth line of Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. Strome is likely to take Okposo’s spot on the top power-play unit.