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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 2:13 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Whole new world for Rolston

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- At age 38, Brian Rolston is starting over -- and he's doing it with one of the NHL's youngest teams.

Rolston is one of the new faces on Long Island this fall after being acquired from New Jersey in an offseason deal. After one day of camp, he likes what he sees.

"There's so much talent here," he said. "It's a matter of guys taking that talent and taking a leadership role and moving forward. (Matt) Moulson, (John) Tavares -- you can go around the whole room. There are skilled young players. It's time to take that next step; really take control and be leaders on the ice.”

General manager Garth Snow brought Rolston to the Island partly to provide some veteran leadership -- Rolston's career includes a Stanley Cup with New Jersey and success internationally with Team USA.

"Guys have really embraces having me here," Roslton said.

But Rolston doesn't feel he's the only leader.

"We can all be leaders and move this franchise forward," he said. "We want to compete for the Stanley Cup, and we have to take that one game at a time. That should be our goal."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 2:09 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Capuano in no hurry to name goalies

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- With six goaltenders in camp, five of whom have NHL experience, Islanders coach Jack Capuano will have some decisions to make. For now, though, he's in no rush.

Capuano told the media after Saturday's initial practice at Iceworks that he hasn't even thought about how he'll divvy up playing time during the exhibition games.

"I get a lot of questions about the goaltending, but for me, it's the competition," he said. "You can't have anything better than that. That's the way it should be -- not just in goaltending, but on defense and at the forward positions as well."

The Isles have veteran Rick DiPietro, rookies Kevin Poulin, Mikko Koskinen and Anders Nilsson, as well as Al Montoya, who was impressive after being acquired late last season, and former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who was claimed on waivers last season but opted not to report.

Capuano is making no promises to anyone about playing time.

"The guys that perform and play to the level they need to will be in the lineup."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 1:22 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Okposo keeps up

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen form two-thirds of one of the fastest lines in the NHL. Kyle Okposo, the third member of the trio, knows he has to work hard to keep up.

"Today especially, with the skating tests and the laps we were doing at the end -- I was working on my skating all summer because I know how fast those guys are," Okposo said after Saturday's initial workout at Iceworks. "It was tough to keep up with them, but it's fun at the same time. We kind of push each other."

Nielsen said Okposo looks like he'll have no trouble keeping up.

"He looks good," the Danish center said. "You can see that he worked his butt off this summer. I can see that he's in great shape."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 12:22 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: It's Capuano’s show

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Jack Capuano is no stranger to training camps as both a player and an assistant coach. But this year is different -- for the first time in the NHL, he's the boss.

Capuano took over as interim coach last November when the Islanders fired Scott Gordon. The team's strong second-half showing earned him a full crack at the job -- much to the delight of his players, who responded to his lower-key approach.

Kyle Okposo is among the Isles who's glad to have Capuano in charge on a full-time basis.

"Cappy's going to be great," Okposo said after Saturday's initial workout at Iceworks. "He really grew as a coach last year, and we're all looking forward to working with him again."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 12:08 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Rick's ready

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- It's been a tough few years for Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, whose list of injuries could fill a couple of blog posts.

But he says he's healthy and ready to go.

"This is the first summer in quite a while where I didn't have to rehab from surgery," DiPietro said after Saturday's initial workout at Iceworks. "That's a positive, and I've done everything in my power physically to get healthy for camp and hopefully stay healthy.”

DiPietro played just 26 games last season, but that was still his highest total since 2007-08. He missed much of the Isles' second-half surge because of a broken jaw.

"I wasn't part of the team for a lot of it, but from the All-Star break on, we played fantastic," he said. "We had one of the best records in the League. As long as we can stay healthy -- that's the biggest thing for us."

DiPietro turns 30 on Monday, but he says he doesn't feel old -- even on one of the NHL's youngest teams.

"I wouldn't  consider myself old yet," he said. "I'm still in my late 20s; I've got a couple of more days."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 10:53 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Over before it began

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- One player who is not here at Iceworks is rookie defenseman Mark Katic, who's spent most of the last two seasons in the AHL at Bridgeport but played 11 games last season with the Isles. He dislocated his left shoulder in one of the rookie games against Boston earlier this week and reportedly is headed for surgery, leaving his season in doubt. The 22-year-old had surgery on the same shoulder two years ago.

Another player not here today is rookie forward Rhett Rakhshani, who sustained a concussion in Monday night's rookie game and is still not skating.

One oft-injured Islander who looks ready to go is goaltender Rick DiPietro, who's hoping for his first healthy season in three years. He's still wearing the old-style plain blue mask he donned after suffering a broken jaw in early February -- odd to see a goalie these days without an extensively decorated mask.
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 10:39 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Isles open camp; Staios on the way

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- The Islanders hit the ice for the first time this season when the first of two groups jumped on at 10 a.m. Former Isles captain Doug Weight, who retired during the summer, traded in his sweater and pads for a baseball cap and whistle, serving as an assistant coach as the drills began.

Coach Jack Capuano, running a camp as the boss for the first time after having the "interim" tag removed shortly after last season ended, wasted little time pushing his troops for more effort in skating drills.

With lots of veteran free agents still looking for jobs, the Islanders offered a camp invite to 38-year-old defenseman Steve Staios, who played with Calgary last season and has 936 games on his NHL resume. The Isles say he's scheduled to arrive at camp on Sunday.
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Posted On Friday, 09.09.2011 / 12:35 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Phaneuf eager to get started

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of only two teams that haven't made the playoffs since the 2004-05 work stoppage. After a late-season run brought them close last spring, captain Dion Phaneuf is eager to get started and end the drought.

"That's why we play the game. You don't just play the game to be done in April. Everyone plays to win, to give yourself a chance to win, and you don't have a chance to win if you're not in the playoffs," he told NHL.com during the annual Player Media Tour. "That's where we want to get, and that's where we have to get. We were close last year; we weren't eliminated until there were two games left in the season. We had a good run. We played hard, but we couldn't make up the ground we lost at the start of the season."

With a revamped roster that includes former Calgary teammate Matthew Lombardi, Phaneuf says the Leafs need to get off to a good start -- but adds that they can't let up."

"Getting off to a good start is important," he said. "But you can't just get off to a good start and then fall off. You've got to keep it going -- you have to be consistent. You can't have these extreme highs and extreme lows -- win three and lose four. You've got to be consistent. That's what we've got to do this year to make the playoffs."

One good thing for Phaneuf is that he's completely recovered from the midseason leg injury that cost him 16 games and slowed him even after he returned.

"It was awful," he said of the first major injury of his NHL career. "It was something that I'd never experienced. I've been hurt at the end of years and had the summer to rehab and get ready for the next year. But having a major injury is something that was not a lot of fun to go through. It was a very serious injury, one that took a lot more out of me than I expected. I probably tried to come back too early. It was a major injury that took a lot of time to heal."

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Posted On Thursday, 09.08.2011 / 4:20 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Grabner a fan of Long Island

It's no secret that the Nassau Coliseum, one of the NHL's oldest facilities, is not exactly a selling point when the New York Islanders are trying to recruit free agents and keep their young talent. But forward Michael Grabner says Long Island has a lot going for it.

"It is," Grabner said when asked if the Island was nicer than he had expected. "A lot of guys probably see the Coliseum, but once you get to know Long Island, it's pretty good. There's a lot of beaches. You're 40 minutes from New York if you want to go there. I love living out there, and I think people would enjoy it if they lived there for a while. There's a lot to do -- there's not just the area around the Coliseum."

Grabner, who led all rookies last season with 34 goals, will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy Long Island -- he signed a five-year contract with the Isles this summer.

Asked if a lot of players get their sole impression of Long Island from the 40-year-old Coliseum and the hotel across the parking lot where most visiting teams stay, he said, "That's exactly what a lot of people think. But you go 15 to 20 minutes and you've got some beautiful areas -- lot of beaches, lot of parks. It's great to live out there."

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Posted On Thursday, 09.08.2011 / 11:48 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Grabner's speed came naturally

When it comes to skating, just call Michael Grabner "The Natural."

The New York Islanders forward won the Fastest Skater competition during the skills competition at All-Star Weekend in January and went on to lead all rookies with 34 goals, becoming a finalist for the Calder Trophy.

He said Thursday that his skating skills just came naturally.

"I've never trained for it," he said. "I did a lot of sprints -- track and field -- when I was in school. I always practiced with older guys when I was in school when I was younger, and I tried to keep up with them. I wanted to be the fastest. That probably helped me.

"But I didn't do any specific training or have any skating coaches or anything. I guess I got lucky."

Grabner is one of just three Austrian-born players in the NHL (Thomas Vanek and Andreas Nodl are the others). Hockey isn't the big sport in his homeland, and Grabner may owe his career on ice to a fortunate accident of geography.

"We lived across the street from the rink," he said. "My mom signed me up when I was 5 because my friends and a lot of people from school were playing. That's how I got into (hockey). I liked it and started to play roller hockey in the summers. After that, I would spend five or six hours a day at the rink. I loved it."

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The old saying in hockey is 'weather the storm.' I put the notion in their heads that we don't want to weather the storm, we want to push just as hard and matched their work ethic. I thought our guys exceeded that in the first period.

— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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