The New York Islanders thought the weather was going to be their biggest problem Monday, until the team learned that Kyle Okposo will miss six-to-eight weeks with an upper-body injury.
Tonight’s game against the New York Rangers is still scheduled for 7 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum, but while the blizzard may still be a short-term problem, losing the team’s second leading scorer (44 points in 46 games) is a long-term headache.
“It’s a big loss,” Islanders captain John Tavares said. “We know what Kyle brings to the table, how valuable he is to the team. We felt like we were getting into a good rhythm, we had a couple of big games.”
Okposo had seven points (five goals, two assists) in the three games leading up to the All-Star break, including a four-goal night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Head Coach Jack Capuano would not elaborate on the nature of the injury, but said it occurred before the All-Star break.
“I had an idea before the break here, but it definitely comes as a shock,” Capuano said. “You have to deal with injuries throughout the year and unfortunately this is a tough one for us.”
Okposo’s injury comes just as the Islanders top line was hitting its stride, as Josh Bailey, Tavares and Okposo combined for 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) over their past three games.
“It’s just disappointing because that line was playing so well,” Capuano said. “We’ll analyze it and figure out who is going to play there.”
Mikhail Grabovski skated with Tavares and Bailey at Monday’s practice. Grabovski has been out since Jan. 9, so putting him on the top line won’t disrupt the chemistry of the Islanders other three lines.
“The other three lines have played so well, you really don’t want to break those guys up,” Capuano said. “Grabovski can get an opportunity to play with Bailey. Bailey is one of those guys that can play the left and right side for us.”
Grabovski did get some top line minutes in the third period of the Islanders 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, scoring the team’s second goal.
“The dynamic of the line will be a bit different, but we’re just going to have to play that much better to fill the void as much as we can,” Bailey said. “We’ve seen that happen all year. Whenever we’ve lost one, we’ve always had guys step up and fill the void. It’ll be no different this time for us to get through it.”
A massive blizzard hit the Tri-State area on Monday afternoon and continued into Tuesday morning, but as of this moment, the game is still scheduled to be played at 7 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum.
Please stay tuned to NewYorkIslanders.com for any updates on the start time of the game.