With the team decimated by injuries, the Islanders finally received good news on forward Kyle Okposo, who Wednesdayparticipated in his first practice since sustaining a torn labrum in his right shoulder during training camp in September.
Okposo all but guaranteed he would return this season. "I don't believe there is any chance that I won't play this year,'' he said. "It felt good, just good to get back on the ice and be with the guys again. I'm still a few weeks away. I've got to work on a couple more things, get a little bit stronger, get some contact and I'll be good to go.''
Okposo's injury was the second half of a double whammy that hit the Islanders. Okposo went down a few days after All-Star defenseman Mark Streit suffered a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum in his left shoulder, "It was just kind of a freak accident,'' Okposo said. "I've had some shoulder issues before. I kind of got hit, I noticed it was bothering me and that was that.''
The envisioned improvement of a line featuring Okposo, John Tavares and Matt Moulson would be put on a lengthy hold. Okposo had 19 goals and 33 assists last season and was a near miss for Team USA in the Olympics.
"I wanted to have a really good year, a really solid year,'' he said. "There's still a little bit of time to do that and hopefully I can get back soon and show what I can do.''
Okposo said he knew the injury was serious. "I never had anything like this, it was very stiff. It took quite a while to get my range of motion back. This is something that you can't rush. There is definitely a possibility for a re-injury if you come back too soon.''
The team has changed since his last full skate. "I haven't played with a lot of the guys yet,'' he said. "We have a great crop of young guys. It's definitely fun to get to know the guys and be around the rink a little bit more.''
Okposo also is playing for a new coach, Jack Capuano, who replaced Scott Gordon in November. "It's always tough to see somebody go,'' Okposo said. "Scott did a great job for us and for me personally. He helped me along in my development. Jack has been great. He's been great with the guys.''
Okposo suffered from afar as the team lost 20 of 21 games. "It was tough to watch, tough to know I couldn't try and help the guys and do anything about it,'' the alternate captain said. "That was definitely tough to take and I just felt for the guys. You've got to take the ups and the downs throughout the season and that was definitely a big down. I tried to talk to as many guys as I can and try and keep the mood positive in the room and that's about all I could do.''