Islanders' line of John Tavares, Brock Nelson, Kyle Okposo is working
John Tavares has had six forwards play alongside him in the 16 games he's dressed for this season. Islanders coach Jack Capuano had said -- warned, you might even say -- several weeks ago that Tavares' linemates could change on a game-by-game basis depending on the opponent.
But if the past four games are any indication, Tavares may have a couple familiar faces on either side of him for a little while. The top line of Brock Nelson, Tavares and Kyle Okposo has produced seven goals during the Isles' 3-1-0 surge and a happy captain means a happy Islanders squad.
"I've obviously played with Kyle a lot over the years," Tavares said after Monday's 5-2 win over the Coyotes in which the team's captain had two goals and an assist, Okposo had three assists and Nelson had one of each. "And Brock just continues to improve his game. It's still only his third year and he's getting better and better."
All three players slumped on different lines through stretches of the opening 15 games. Tavares sandwiched a four-game scoreless skid around his three-game absence because of illness; Nelson had only one point in nine games heading into the West Coast trip last week, and Okposo had only two points in seven games heading into San Jose a week ago.
That was when Capuano spun the wheel and came up with this new top line, putting Tavares and Okposo together to start a game for the first time all season after the two flourished together in the opening 50 games last season.
Okposo, who has five assists in the last three games, has been the driving force. His motor has been running high since the line was united and he's shown better awareness in all three zones after a few ugly games.
"He's a skilled guy, but when you're 220-plus pounds and 6-2, you want to play with that power forward instinct that he has," Capuano said. "I thought [Monday night] he was good. Anytime he's got speed moving in and he's driving to the net and he's cycling back and doing those things, he's a real effective player for us."
Notes & quotes:The team had no update on Mikhail Grabovski, who left Monday's game with an upper-body injury. The Islanders were off on Tuesday.