New York Hockey: Kyle Okposo

Okposo out with eye injury

September, 25, 2013
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Isles forward Kyle Okposo is not on the ice Wednesday, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.

The team confirmed the 25-year-old winger is day-to-day with an eye injury suffered in Saturday's 3-0 loss to the Devils at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

Okposo left the game after taking a stick to his left eye and was seen afterwards in the locker room with stitches.

Assuming there is no structural damage to his eye, Okposo is expected to be in the lineup Friday October 3 when the Isles square off in another tilt against the Devils in the team's 2013-14 season opener.

Rapid Reaction: Devils 3, Islanders 0

September, 21, 2013
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NEW YORK -- The Islanders didn't break in their new digs with a win, but they did christen their future home with Brooklyn's first taste of NHL hockey in a 3-0 loss to the Devils at Barclays Center on Saturday.

What it means: In a game that was more about the atmosphere than the final score, the new arena drew mixed reviews from the 14,689 in attendance. Though the buzz about the new building brought out a big crowd and ample excitement, there were also some anticipated gripes about the state-of-the-art venue, which will be home to the Islanders beginning in 2015-16. The sleek, modern Barclays Center is an automatic upgrade over the antiquated Nassau Coliseum, at least aesthetically, but some fans weren't sold on the sight lines and obstructed views they encountered.

Fan favorite: Though fans were fond of the intimate feeling the arena’s configuration provides, there were also some complaints about the obstructed views, particularly from the West End area of the arena. Some said they completely lost portions of play while the puck was behind the net, others said they found that the glass warped their vantage point. Even a few fans griped that there was no place to smoke a cigarette.

Looking good: Devils netminder Cory Schneider, who turned away all 22 shots faced in his Devils debut Monday night against the Rangers, has yet to surrender a goal in the preseason. The former Canuck, acquired by the Devils in a draft-day trade, made 26 saves to blank the Islanders in his second exhibition game.

Josefson makes history: Mark this one down, trivia buffs. Devils center Jacob Josefson scored the first ever NHL goal in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Josefson poked through a rebound to give the Devils a 1-0 lead at 10:14 of the first, with defenseman Anton Volchenkov and Swiss forward Damien Brunner picking up the assists.

Down and out: Islanders winger Kyle Okposo left the game with 10:20 to play in the third period after catching a stick to the face that left his mouth bloodied. No high-sticking penalty was called.

Still got it: Veteran Patrik Elias, who is entering his 17th season with the Devils, gave the team a 2-0 lead in the second period and picked up an assist on Steve Bernier's power-play goal in the next frame. The 37-year-old forward, who has amassed 375 goals and 930 points during his illustrious career with New Jersey, led the team in scoring last season with 14 goals and 36 points.

Sticking around: Former Red Wing Brunner picked up two assists in his second game since signing a professional tryout contract with the Devils earlier this week. Following Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Islanders, the 26-year-old said his conditioning and timing both needed improvement, but he looked better Saturday night. Though Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said he gave Brunner “no promises” about earning a contract for the season, his two-point performance Saturday was a step toward cracking the opening-day roster.

Isles gaining confidence

May, 7, 2013
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Islanders are not simply happy to be here.

Proving that they can be more than just competitive with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders edged the top seed in the East 6-4 in a wild romp at Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night to even the series 2-2.

Scoring six goals against a supremely shaky Marc-Andre Fleury, the Isles might also have planted some serious doubt within the Penguins' room about their starting goaltender.

[+] EnlargeJosh Bailey
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsThe Islanders evened up the series at two games apiece on Tuesday.
Fleury has now given up 14 goals in four games this series, leading many to wonder whether veteran backup Tomas Vokoun will get the start in goal for Game 5 on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma declined to say who would start, but he didn’t rule out Vokoun as a possibility.

“We’re not going to talk about our starting goaltender for Game 5 right now,” Bylsma said.

It wasn’t just Fleury who gave up questionable goals -- Isles netminder Evgeni Nabokov has a few he’d probably like back as well -- in what turned out to be a wildly entertaining game between two teams trading scoring chances at a frenetic pace.

After seeing leads quickly evaporate in the first two periods, the Islanders rattled off three goals in the final frame. Captain Mark Streit, who finished with three points, tied the game at 3 with his second goal of the game early in the third, and superstar center John Tavares snapped a 4-4 draw to score what would hold up as the game-winner midway through the period.

Tavares stick handled his way to the doorstep and chased his own rebound to beat Fleury’s outstretched pad for a 5-4 lead at 10:11. Fourth-line sparkplug Casey Cizikas (1G, 2A, +4 rating) added an insurance goal with less than two minutes remaining -- the final display of Fleury’s frustrating night.

Before that bizarre play, in which he was out of position and slow to react to Cizikas cutting to the net, Fleury gave up a real softie to Kyle Okposo in the second period.

Okposo threw the puck at the net from behind the goal line and banked it in off Fleury’s pads at 18:36.

The handful of blunders was eerily reminiscent of last year’s meltdown in the first round of the playoffs, when Fleury surrendered a dizzying 26 goals over six games to the Philadelphia Flyers.

“We know how he played last year against Philly, but we just want to go get traffic in front of him, get shots, shoot the puck,” Okposo said. “We didn’t shoot the puck enough in the second. We came out in the third, peppered him and got in his kitchen a little bit.”

Rugged forward Matt Martin said the team let Fleury off too easy in Game 1 when he recorded a 5-0 shutout. Since then, they’ve amped up the pressure.

“Game 1, we didn’t test him enough. He had a shutout. Luckily, Game 2 we were able to get some on him and since then, we’ve been able to capitalize on our opportunities,” Martin said. "I think if you take away any goalie’s confidence, it’s hard to make saves.”

By contrast, the Islanders confidence seems to be soaring after Game 4’s victory, one that ensures they’ll get another game at home in front of a raucous Nassau Coliseum crowd.

"Game 3 was heartbreaking and we found a way to put it behind us, so the nice thing is that we get another game at home here," Martin said. "The crowd’s been fantastic for us."

Even without top-pair defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who was forced from the game with an upper-body injury in the second period, the Islanders seem encouraged by their chances from here on out.

They’ll take momentum into Game 5 and the knowledge that these Penguins are a beatable team.

Although an inexperienced squad, the Islanders have matured, both from earlier this season and maybe even earlier this series, into one capable of managing the momentum swings and surges within a game.

“We put so much effort into getting here, there was no doubt we wanted to make the most of this opportunity," Tavares said. "We weren’t just satisfied being here. We believe in this room, obviously. ... There are a lot of guys stepping up for us here and that’s what we need.”
What it means: This first-round series between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins has been more than just competitive. It's been wildly entertaining.

Following a heartbreaking overtime loss on Sunday in Game 3, the eighth-seeded Isles edged the top-seeded Penguins 6-4 on Tuesday with three goals in a frenzied third period to even the series 2-2.

Goaltending took a back seat Tuesday night, with both Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Nabokov giving up a few questionable goals throughout the course of a frenzied game 4, but the crowd at Nassau Coliseum didn't seem to mind. The two teams traded goals until Islanders star John Tavares delivered the game-winner in the third.

Snapping a 4-4 draw, Tavares made a terrific move to stick handle his way to the net and chase his own rebound to beat Fleury. The dramatic goal caused a boisterous crowd at Nassau Coliseum to erupt into cheers of "M-V-P!" as the Penguins scrambled to collect themselves. Fleury didn't help matters, though, as his blunder late in the game allowed Casey Cizikas to add an insurance goal with 1:16 to play.

Trading chances: For the second time in the game, the Islanders allowed a lead to quickly evaporate. After captain Mark Streit's first goal of the night gave the Isles a 2-1 edge in the second period, the Penguins answered 58 seconds later when Evgeni Malkin converted a 2-on-1 rush. The Penguins later took a 3-2 lead on Brandon Sutter’s shot from the left circle that beat a screened Evgeni Nabokov, but this time it was the Islanders who responded.

Soft goal: Scrutinized for his meltdown in the Penguins’ first-round series against the Flyers last spring, Fleury has been on the hot seat this series. He didn’t help his case by giving up a softie for the game-tying goal with 1:24 remaining in the second. Kyle Okposo threw the puck on net from behind the goal line, banking it in off Fleury’s pads to knot the score at three heading into the second intermission.

Close call: Once again, Crosby was the recipient of a hazardous deflected puck, though Tuesday night’s close call appeared to be just that. In his third game back from a fractured jaw, Crosby was stung in the throat by a piece of Brian Strait’s shot that glanced off the stick of Chris Kunitz. In a poor display, Islanders fans cheered as Crosby doubled over and skated to the opposite end of the ice. He eventually went to the bench, where he was briefly treated by the team’s trainer, and returned to the ice.

Tied after one: Strait, whose Game 3 penalty on Crosby led to the game-winning power-play goal, gave the Isles a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a seeing-eye shot that beat Fleury at 14:05, but the Isles gave one right back less than a minute later. James Neal, who returned after suffering an injury in Game 1 of the series, ripped a sharp-angle shot past Nabokov 45 seconds later to tie the game, 1-1.

Man down: Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald was forced from the game in the second period after taking Douglas Murray’s shot to the arm. Should the injury sideline MacDonald for Game 5, that would be a significant loss for the Islanders blue line. The 26-year-old plays on the team’s top pairing with youngster Travis Hamonic.

Up Next: Islanders at Penguins, Thursday at 7.

Isles clinch playoff berth

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
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IslandersJames Guillory/USA TODAY SportsThe Islanders didn't come away with a win on Tuesday. But who cares?
The Islanders didn't leave Carolina with a win Tuesday night, but you can bet there will still be one heck of a celebration on the team's flight home.

For the first time since 2007, the Islanders are headed to the playoffs.

With a point earned in a 4-3 shootout loss to Carolina, coupled with the Capitals' 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets in Washington, D.C., the Isles reached their magic number (3) to clinch a playoff spot and punch their ticket for the first time in six years.

Heading into Tuesday's action, the Jets were the only team not among the top eight that had the potential to knock the Isles out, but the Jets fell in regulation as the Caps clinched the Southeast Division title and claimed the coveted No. 3 seed.

If the Islanders remain in sixth place, where they currently sit with 54 points, they'd draw the Caps in a first-round matchup. The Isles could finish as high as the fifth seed or as low as the eighth seed, but regardless, they will be playing meaningful games in May.

Tuesday marked a significant moment for the franchise, as its long-suffering fan base was rewarded for enduring some pretty bleak times in recent years. The Islanders finished in the bottom five teams for five straight seasons before a drastic turnaround in 2013.

Led by superstar center John Tavares, who will likely garner consideration for the Hart Trophy, the Islanders have earned 17 of 20 points in their past 10 games. The team's second line of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo has been tremendous, and veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov has been impressive in net.

And to make Isles fans' night a little better?

The Rangers also had the chance to clinch but couldn't make it happen. A regulation win over the Panthers would've been enough with the Jets' regulation loss, but the Blueshirts dropped a 3-2 decision in Florida.

The Rangers are now locked up with the Jets and Ottawa Senators in a three-way battle for the last two playoff spots up for grabs.

W2W4: Isles vs. Flyers

April, 9, 2013
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At a glance: The Islanders are gearing up for what would be their first playoff appearance in six years and have the opportunity to firm up their chances. Currently tied with the Rangers at 42 points, the Islanders have the chance to pass their division rivals with a win at home over the Flyers. Coming off a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg on Saturday, the Flyers' playoff hopes are rapidly waning but they've won seven straight on Long Island heading into Tuesday’s contest.

Strong stretch: Instead of desperately clawing for points to avoid elimination, the Islanders have gone 6-1-1 in their last eight games to put themselves in position to play on. The Isles have a tough week ahead, though. Following Tuesday’s game against the Flyers, the Isles travel to Boston to face the Bruins on Thursday before returning home to host the Rangers on Saturday.

Nabby in net: Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will make his 34th start of the season Tuesday against the Flyers. The 36-year-old netminder, who is 18-11-4 with a .906 save percentage and 2.64 GAA, squares off against Philly's Steve Mason. Mason was acquired by Philadelphia in a trade with Columbus last week.

Line to watch: The Islanders' second line of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo has been a productive one of late. Both Bailey and Nielsen have five points in the last four games, while Okposo has chipped in with a goal and an assist over the last two games.

Back in action: After missing Saturday’s game with the flu, Matt Moulson’s ironman streak came to an end at 284 games. But he returns to action Tuesday after missing the first Islanders game of his career. His consecutive games played streak ranks third in team history.

Hello, Brooklyn: The Islanders announced they will play their first game at Barclays Center, an exhibition match against the New Jersey Devils, on September 21, 2013.

Okposo's three-point performance wasted in OT loss

November, 23, 2011
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In his second game back from a three-game exile, Kyle Okposo delivered the performance he'd been hoping for all season. Halting a 15-game scoreless streak, Okposo tallied twice on his first two shots of the game and picked up his fourth assist of the season as well.

Too bad the Islanders wasted his three-point effort with a 4-3 overtime loss against the Flyers at Nassau Coliseum

The reeling 5-11-3 Islanders let a two goal lead slip away as Philadelphia's Danny Briere tied the game with 5:42 left in regulation and ripped a wrist shot to notch the game-winner in the overtime period to hand the Islanders their third straight loss. The Islanders have now dropped 13 of their last 15 games, and 25 of their last 27 against the Flyers dating back to the 2007-08 season.

"I finally got back to how I play my game. It was just unfortunate we couldn't pull it out in the end," Okposo said.

If there was a bright spot to be taken from the team's defeat, it was the inspired performance of Okposo, who was scratched for three games last week.

The 23-year-old assistant captain knotted the teams at 1 just 19 seconds after Andrej Meszaros' beat goaltender Rick DiPietro for an early Flyers lead 18 seconds into play.

Okposo's goal from the slot was his first of the season and the first since March 22, 2010.

"Great game. Glad to see him contribute like that. He was in a little bit of a funk and he played an unbelievable game tonight," PA Parenteau said. "That's what we need out of him."

Said Josh Bailey:

"Great to see. That's the way [Okposo] plays. When he plays like that consistently, he's one of our best players every night and it was really good to se him really happy because he works so hard."

Bailey made a beautiful feed to Okposo at the doorstep to pick up an assist on Okposo's second of the night -- a power-play goal to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead midway through the first.

"{Grabner] threaded the needle -- there wasn't much room for him there -- he made a great pass and in that situation everyone kind of commits like I'm going to shoot," Bailey said. "Okie did a good job of sliding it back there for a tic-tac-toe play."

Coach Jack Capuano said he was impressed by the work of Okposo's entire line; Michael Grabner also recorded a three-point night with one goal and two assists.

"I thought Kyle really responded tonight and clearly was one of the better players on the ice," Capuano said.

Training camp preview: Islanders

September, 16, 2011
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The Islanders missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season and endured a tumultuous year that included a 13-game winless streak, a head coaching change and several debilitating injuries. They're hoping they can stay healthy and turn things around.

Main storylines

1. Goaltending: A franchise record-setting six different goaltenders made starts for the Islanders last season and the nets are already crowded this year. Injury-prone Rick DiPietro will have every chance to succeed -- after all, he's signed through 2021 -- but he'll be pushed by last year's surprise starter, Al Montoya, and promising up-and-comer Kevin Poulin. And now the Islanders can add Evgeni Nabokov to the mix. The 36-year-old veteran, who was claimed by the Islanders last January and refused to report, has by far the most experience of the four goalies expected to compete for the job. But the former Vezina Trophy finalist, who spent part of last season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, hasn't played in the NHL since the May 2010. Strong, consistent goaltending will be vital to the team's success and they already have an interesting battle brewing.

2. Can they stay healthy? For the third time in four years, the Islanders led the league in man-games lost, including two devastating injuries that occurred before the puck even dropped on a preseason game. Two of the team's most valuable players -- defenseman Mark Streit and forward Kyle Okposo -- suffered significant shoulder injuries during intrasquad scrimmages. And those were just a harbinger of things to come -- the team also lost defensemen Mike Mottau, Mark Eaton, Andrew MacDonald and goaltenders DiPietro and Poulin for significant chunks of time. No team has the depth to withstand the injuries the Islanders sustained last season; they hope they aren't faced with a similar situation again.

3. El Nino: Former first-round pick Nino Niederreiter stuck around for nine games with the Islanders last season before they sent him back to his junior team, but the Swiss winger will have a much better shot at cracking the lineup this year. After dominating at the junior level (41 goals, 70 points) and honing his game, the chippy forward has a good chance to make the team. The Islanders envision him as their first-line right wing of the future, but will evaluate whether he is prepared to handle the rigors of the NHL game now.

New additions

C Marty Reasoner: The 34-year-old will replace fan favorite Zenon Konopka as the team's gritty fourth-line center, but he'll be expected to contribute offensively as well. Reasoner finished last season with 14 goals and 18 assist for the Florida Panthers.

LW Brian Rolston: Acquired from the Devils in a trade that shipped Trent Hunter to New Jersey, Rolston, 38, provides the Islanders with a strong veteran presence inside the room as well as a powerful shot from the point.

G Evgeni Nabokov: Although the Islanders owned his rights after claiming him off waivers in January, Nabokov refused to report and was subsequently suspended. With a lengthy layoff from hockey to rethink his situation, the long-time Shark appears to have a different attitude about playing for the Islanders. If he wants to get back into the NHL, his journey will have to take him through Long Island whether he likes it or not.

Wild card

At 18, the Islanders' 2011 first-round draftee, Ryan Strome, doesn't appear physically ready to play in the NHL, but the Islanders will keep an eye on the skilled center to see what they have in this year's fifth overall pick.

Bottom line

The time is now for the Islanders to shed the rebuilding phase and take the next step. They have enough young talent to become a playoff team, but will need to count on good health and consistent goaltending to make that happen.

Parise, Gaborik and stretch-run storylines

January, 28, 2011
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As I make my way to Raleigh, N.C. for the All-Star game, I thought I’d leave you with a few key storylines to watch as the season unfolds down the stretch run.

Will the Devils Deal?

Just today, E.J. Hradek listed Jason Arnott as one of five players that need to be dealt before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. Even with their recent winning streak, the playoffs seem a bit far fetched for New Jersey at this point. It looks like the final spot in the Eastern Conference will again be about 90 points (the Thrashers are on pace for 89.88 over 82 games). Barring a miraculous stretch run in which the Devils put up 55 points in 33 games, that’s not going to happen. So what do the Devs do to prepare for next season? Could Martin Brodeur actually be on the trade block? Those are questions GM Lou Lamoriello will have ask and answer in the next month.

Pursuing Parise

The latest word I’ve heard about the talented winger’s return is that he won’t even start skating until the first week of March. Figuring he’ll need time to get back up to speed, you wonder if it’s even worth suiting him up this season and risking the chance he could re-injure himself. But the intrigue will certainly carry into the offseason if the Devils can’t ink him to an extension. You can bet there are a number of teams out there with an offer sheet already drawn up for the restricted free agent and the Devils don’t have a ton of cap flexibility. Given the outcome of this season, you have to think that if Lamoriello is unable to re-sign Parise the Ilya Kovalchuk contract goes from “bad” to “unmitigated disaster.”

What’s Next In Long Island?

The New York Islanders started their all-star break by locking down one of their top scorers, signing Matt Moulson to a three-year deal worth $9.4 million. That’s a nice bargain if Moulson continues to score in the 30-goal range each season. (He’s on pace for 28 in 2010-11.) But that’s likely just the first of what figures to be a slew of signings before free agency opens July 1. As of right now, the Islanders have 12 players under contract for next season. Okay, 14 if you count Alexei Yashin and Brendan Witt. That leaves the futures of Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Michael Grabner, Blake Comeau and more up in the air. Who will the Isles earmark as their cornerstone guys and who will they let walk away?

Getting Gaborik Going

On Broadway, the Rangers made the most of an injury-plagued first 52 games, currently sitting sixth in the East. And they’ve done it largely without the usual production of Marian Gaborik. (Thank you, Brian Boyle.) Gaborik has just 16 goals on the season and has recorded goals in back to back games just once. In fact, 10 of those goals came in just three games. Those explosions sure are fun to watch, but a little more consistency would carry the Blueshirts a long way.

Donnie Pucks: You should know better!

October, 12, 2010
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Monday afternoon the Islanders beat the Rangers 6-4. That should be the story. With John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Mark Streit injured, the Islanders have produced 3 points in the standings in just two games and have scored 10 goals. The story, however, is James Wisniewski.

In the first period Wisniewski got into a verbal spat with, who else, Sean Avery. What happened next shocked some, entertained others but can't happen in front of 11,748 fans, many of them kids. He made an obscene gesture that can't be described on this site.

Wisniewski claims to not remember. Yeah right! James, if you want to refresh your memory just go to YouTube.

Avery certainly recalled the incident. He said, "It's pretty obvious what the guy was doing, but I'm sure nothing will happen to him because nothing ever happens. It's interesting, he'd get a warning for something like that." Sean must not remember that in the preseason Nick Boynton of the Blackhawks fought Blair Jones of the Lightning, lost the fight and committed a throat slash gesture. He was suspended for one game.

Apologies to Avery but there is no way Wisniewski will get away with this. Look for a one game suspension.

It's a shame. A great day for the Islanders lost in a gesture.

The Rangers' three H's

October, 10, 2010
10/10/10
7:32
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HISTORY

We all felt that Derek Stepan had a chance to be fun to watch. However, a hat trick in his NHL debut? No way! Last night, in Buffalo, he became only the fourth player to record a trick in his first NHL game.
  • Fabian Brunnstrom for the Stars in 2008
  • Real Cloutier for the Nordiques in 1979
  • Alex Smart for the Canadiens in 1943
HUSTLE

Time will tell if the Rangers are better then the Sabres. Last night, however, they without question out-worked them. It was all about second-effort that won the game. Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Sean Avery all made plays through hard work.

On Dubinsky's first goal, Tyler Myers of the Sabres fell down. Anisimov hustled to the puck. Instead of rushing a wrap around he grabbed the puck and found Dubinsky for the goal. A great example of hard work and poise.

HUSH

It was the home opener for the Sabres in one of the best hockey towns in the U.S. The crowd was nuts early. But the play of the Rangers and scoring the first goals silenced the crowd. Not a seat to be had at the HSBC Arena and you could hear a pin drop.

Rangers will play the Islanders Monday afternoon with a real chance to start the year 2-0. The Isles will be without Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo because of injury. Plus, John Tavares suffered a mild concussion Saturday night against Dallas.

Schremp to miss 3-4 weeks

October, 4, 2010
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After a 17-player cut down over the weekend the Islanders lost yet another key contributor to injury, announcing that Rob Schremp will miss 3-4 weeks with a back injury.

Add Schremp's name to an IR list that already includes Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo. Even worse, prized prospect Nino Niederreiter could join them. The young Swiss wing is undergoing examinations today after sustaining a pair of slashes from Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri in Saturday's preseason game in Quebec. FanHouse has some footage of Cammalleri's Paul Bunyan imitation.

The Isles' remaining roster stands at 28 names, meaning the team has a few more cuts to make, though the injury situation has clouded the picture to some degree. The blue line is looking particularly crowded with nine names (not including Streit) still in the mix.

The Islanders, or whatever is left of them, begin their season Saturday at home against the Dallas Stars.

Another bad break for Islanders

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
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Did Garth Snow break a mirror this summer? Seriously, I'm asking.

Yet another key player went down for the Islanders, with Kyle Okposo requiring shoulder surgery that will sideline him for 2-3 months. That's on top of the weekend news that Mark Streit's bum shoulder that will have him out for six months. In sum, that's two of the Isles' top three scorers from 2009-10 out of action for extended periods to start the season.

It's hardly an exact science, but if you take the estimated recovery times as hard return dates, Okposo should be back around Dec. 28 (missing 34 games), with Streit returning March 26 (with six games left on the schedule, if the Islanders even let him suit up at all). Apply their point-per-game averages from last season to that span and the Islanders will be looking to replace 67 points during that stretch, or about 11.5 percent of their total point production from all of last season. No biggie.

What's really crushing is that the Islanders had a shot to make the playoffs. Seriously. Were they a shoo-in? No, but they're a young, improving team and -- more importantly -- the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture is very, very fuzzy. Is anyone really prepared to say, without a doubt, that the Canadiens, Rangers, Hurricanes or Lightning are playoff locks? I'm not.

Now Snow and head coach Scott Gordon will have the unenviable task of replacing two of their top players. Subbing for Streit will likely be impossible. In today's NHL, top-pair, puck-moving defensemen are as rare as photos of Don Cherry in a conservative suit. Okposo's absence will likely mean a much longer look at top prospect Nino Niederreiter, who is almost certain to play the entirety of the nine-game sample stretch allowed under NHL rules. After that time the Isle will have to decide whether to keep him around or send him back to his WHL team in Portland, Ore. and start the clock on his contract a year later.

Keeping the rook around may seem like a simple solution to replacing Okposo, and by most accounts, scouts and talent evaluators believe Niederreiter has the NHL-ready body to endure the league at age 18. But in the team's long-term plans it may be smarter to save the year of service and send him back to Portland.

Barring a miracle, it seems clear that the Islanders won't contend this season, but the foundation is in place for a bright future. While Niederreiter may be able to contribute from Day 1, how much does it matter if he's just contributing to another non-playoff campaign? Shelve him for a year, however, and the Islanders have a cheap supporting scorer to complement John Tavares, Josh Bailey and a healthy Okposo and Streit through 2014.

It's hard to wait a year, but with some $20 million coming off the books at the end of this season, the Islanders could reform into a very serious contender with some free agent help. (Check out the 2011 crop of UFAs via ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.) That's something Snow will think long and hard about before deciding El Niņo's immediate future.

Morning Links
  • In the meantime fans can fixate on the team's first action of the preseason with two split-squad games tonight in Saskatoon (vs. the Flames) and Philadelphia (vs. the Flyers, obviously). Chris Botta has the lineup breakdowns. Nieddereiter will skate with the Saskatoon platoon on a line with Bailey and Rob Schremp. Tavares will join them. You'll probably be able to spot him as the player skating in eight-layers of bubble wrap.
  • Lighthouse Hockey has more on the signing of former Devils D Mike Mottau, who is not exactly beloved on the Island, given his history with Frans Nielsen.
  • Devils scribe Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger has more on the Islanders' newest signee.

A very special Isles practice

September, 24, 2010
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Last season's better-than-expected performance from the Islanders has many in the organization thinking a few small improvements could make a big difference in their postseason chances. With that in mind, and with oodles of free time before their first preseason game, the Isles took part in a special team scrimmage Thursday night, seeking to improve on some dreadful stats on both the power play (27th in the NHL) and penalty kill (29th).

The New York Post spoke with head coach Scott Gordon about the issue of special teams, receiving this rather roundabout quote:
“Not that we accomplished, from our win-loss record, a great deal,” [Gordon said], “but we obviously improved. But 34 wins with a more successful power play and penalty kill, when you know going into the season you were towards the bottom in both categories, to be able to say if we can improve in these areas, how many more wins can that translate into?”

Uh, I think he means if they improve on special teams they’ll be better. I think.

The Post article also discusses the uncertain playing-time split between goalies Dwayne Roloson and Rick DiPietro this season, which is still undecided.

For some more detail on the Thursday night session, the team’s site recaps the Isles’ Thursday night special teams scrimmage.

Afternoon Links

Bettman disputes report; Medvedev lurks

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
8:34
AM ET
It just wouldn’t be a sunrise without a little new light thrown on the Ilya Kovalchuk free agency marathon. ESPN’s Scott Burnside writes that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman denies the NHL nixed the proposal brought by the New Jersey Devils and Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman.

The New York Post reported Wednesday that the league had spiked the second attempt. The Commish may just be parsing words here, as he states, “In order for a contract to be rejected, there would have to be a signed contract submitted," Bettman said. "There has not been a signed contract submitted."

It’s been previously reported that no contract was actually submitted at the much-discussed Monday meeting between the Devils, Grossman and the league, but rather a conceptual framework. Burnside notes that Bettman did not dispute that there has been ongoing discussion between the parties on what the league would allow under the salary cap.

Meanwhile, KHL top boss Alexander Medvedev, on hand in Toronto for the World Hockey Summit, made it clear that his offer to Kovalchuk was still on the table and said he’d received a call from the winger’s agent yesterday.

As reported by Pavel Lysenko of Sovietsky Sport, and posted on the New York Post’s hockey blog, the NHL will only agree to a contract term of 13 years or less. The last framework on Monday was reportedly for 15 years.

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