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SportsHockeyIslanders

Sabres’ Kyle Okposo hopes to play in Coliseum next season

The former Islander is excited to see that the team is returning to its original home.

Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo (21) controls the

Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo (21) controls the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes) Photo Credit: AP / Jeffrey T. Barnes

BUFFALO — As soon as next season’s National Hockey League schedule is released, Kyle Okposo will start scrolling. He sure hopes to find that his Sabres will play one of the 12 regular-season games at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.

“When I heard that they were going back, it put a smile on my face for sure,” he said in the Sabres’ locker room after the morning skate Thursday. “A lot of memories in that barn. I would love to be part of one of those games.”

He has sold his house on Long Island, but part of his heart always will be there. He still is close with former linemate John Tavares, who has what Okposo calls “laser-like focus.”

Of Tavares’ stellar play amid contract uncertainty, Okposo said, “It’s in the back of his mind for sure, but it’s not in the forefront. The forefront is getting his team where it wants to be.”

Okposo — who is in frequent contact with Matt Moulson, a former teammate on the Islanders and Sabres who now plays for the Ontario Reign in the American Hockey League — was thrilled to see Josh Bailey make the All-Star Game, saying, “He’s such a great player, such a smart player. It has been fun to see the success he’s having.”

Most important to him, Okposo has recovered from the concussion that hospitalized him last March and has regained his scoring touch. Entering Thursday, he had 12 points in his previous 11 games. “I think I can contribute at an elite level offensively still,’’ he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I do that.”

Pulock dumps shield

Ryan Pulock was able to shed the full face shield he had been wearing. “I was pretty comfortable with it, but it’s obviously a little better vision-wise with it off,” he said . . . With the Islanders entering Thursday having allowed a league-high 197 goals yet still tied for a wild-card berth, Daren Millard of Canada’s Sportsnet did research and found it has been 30 years since the league-worst defensive team made the playoffs (1987-88 Kings).

New York Sports