New York Islanders Newsday beat writer Arthur Staple reports right winger Kyle Okposo will be rejoining the team Friday in Florida. Okposo has gotten back to skating this week and is expected to skate for his first time back with his Islander teammates Saturday morning before their game against the Florida Panthers.
Okposo has not played since Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 19th) when the Islanders beat the Philadelphia Flyers 7-4. On the following day, January 20th, Okposo underwent surgery to repair a detached retina. Nobody knows when or how Okposo sustained the injury, but there have been reports that he was dealing with the injury when he scored four goals in a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 16th.
The Islanders have done a good job staying afloat in Okposo’s absence, posting an 11-8-1 record in the 20 games they have played without their star right winger. However, to say the Islanders have missed him would be an understatement. Anders Lee has stepped up tremendously, filling the void left by Okposo on the first line. But there may not be a better one-two punch in the NHL than Okposo and captain John Tavares.
Although he is returning to skating and traveling with the Islanders, it is still highly unlikely Okposo plays against the Panthers Saturday or at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. If Okposo is good to go for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers, it would be perfect timing.
There’s still over a month of hockey left, but the Metropolitan division crown and more importantly, home-ice advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs could be on the line Tuesday. The Islanders will be on the second game of a back-to-back Tuesday night, so having a fresh Okposo could provide them with a huge energy boost.
Now the question is when Okposo does return, where does Lee go?
In my opinion, Lee has proven himself as a first-line talent in his young NHL career. Personally if I were Jack Capuano, I would switch Lee over to the left wing and experiment with Lee-Tavares-Okposo on the top line. This experiment could pay dividends. It really depends how Lee adjusts to playing left wing. And if the experiment doesn’t work, demoting Lee to the second line really isn’t a bad problem to have.