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Okposo, play at home keys to Islanders success

by Brian Compton / New York Islanders continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

The New York Islanders know they have to be better than they were a season ago, when they lost 13 games in which they led by two goals en route to missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.

Entering their final season at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, it's important the Islanders have some momentum heading into Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season.

"The time's upon us," captain John Tavares said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's a new year and obviously we've got a lot to prove."

Here are three things that must happen for the Islanders to have success this season:

1. More of the same from Kyle Okposo -- The 26-year-old emerged as a premier power forward in the NHL last season and led the Islanders with 69 points (27 goals, 42 assists) in 71 games. Considering Okposo had to compete just for the opportunity to skate on the top line with Tavares, it was quite a step after scoring four goals in 48 games in 2012-13.

Okposo enters training camp etched in as Tavares' right wing, but it is imperative that he builds off the success he had last season.

"I worked a lot this summer in trying to improve," Okposo said. "I wasn't satisfied with my year last year. I want to continue to get better. As a team, I think we made some pretty good moves this summer. We solidified our goaltending and added a couple of good pieces up front, and I think definitely we're going to take the next step this year."

2. Be better at home -- The Islanders played 40 games at Nassau Coliseum (their other home game was at Yankee Stadium) and won 13 of them. That's not the sign of a playoff team. Had they been more successful at home, their postseason chances would have increased dramatically considering they were above .500 on the road (21-18-2).

It's important to the organization that it gives the Coliseum a proper sendoff, and that won't happen unless the Islanders are better on home ice.

3. Survive November -- The 11th month of the calendar year has been remarkably unkind to the Islanders in recent seasons (they went 4-10-1 in 15 games last season) and the schedule isn't favorable in 2014, either. From Oct. 31-Nov. 8, the Islanders will visit the Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes in succession. Granted, this trip is early in the season, but given the talent in their division and in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders can't afford to stumble through an important road trip.

"We were decimated with injuries," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said, referring to the losses of defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky and goalie Evgeni Nabokov last season. "There's no excuses, but we went through a tough stretch obviously in November with the goaltending situation.

"We believe in the system that we play when we execute it."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

Author: Brian Compton | Deputy Managing Editor

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