Forward Kyle Okposo
made his first appearance at a full team practice on Wednesday morning at Nassau Coliseum, but according to the coaching staff, it will take some time before he’s ready to return to the Islanders lineup.
“I don’t (have a timeline for his return) right now,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “He just saw the doctors last week. I’ll just talk to Garrett (Timms, the Islanders Athletic Trainer) week-to-week to see where he’s at. But right now, he’s still quite a way away (from returning to the lineup).”
During preseason, Okposo underwent shoulder surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff, which he suffered during an intra-squad special teams scrimmage at Nassau Coliseum on September 23rd.
As a result, the 6’0” 210-pound power has not appeared in one game this season.
|Kyle Okposo #21 and Rob Schremp #44 of the New York Islanders share a laugh during a traning camp session on September 21, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) |
“It’s definitely nice (to be skating with the team again),” Okposo said. “It’s just good to be part of the group again and being out there at practice. It’s a good feeling.”
Even though he knows it’s going to take time to be cleared for contact, Okposo said that his shoulder feels good and he can tell that it’s getting close to full strength. Mostly, he’s excited about returning to game action and playing in his first game this season.
“I just want to get back and get back as fast as possible,” Okposo said. “Right now I’m just trying to get my shoulder as strong as it can be and hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later.”
His teammates are really looking forward to Okposo’s return.
“At the start of the year, we said we weren’t going to make excuses for guys being injured and maybe that hurt our success early, but it’s going to be a huge boost to have Kyle (Okposo) back skating,” Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald
said. “This is not just his play on the ice, but it’s what kind of guy he is around the room. He’s well respected.”
MacDonald continued, “When you’re injured for that amount of time, you’re not around as much and you don’t get to interact with the team as much. But now that he’s back, it kind of gives that mental lift for everyone too because it’s a long season and when you get additional help at this point in the season, it goes a long way.”
While the team made no excuses, Okposo’s return is expected to boost the Islanders scoring. Last year, in his second full NHL season, he was second on the team in scoring with 19 goals and 33 assists.
“He’s going to add that dimension of leadership in the room for sure,” Capuano said. “And he’s going to add an element of a power forward to help our scoring for sure.”
Like Capuano said, Okposo is only 22 years old, but he will still fill a leadership role both on the ice and in the locker room. Selected seventh overall in the 2006 Entry Draft, Okposo has been in the league for a few years now, but has quickly stepped in as a leader and even had the “A” on his sweater last year.
|Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders takes the puck to the net against Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 14, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) |
“It’s a huge boost for our lineup,” Islanders forward Josh Bailey
said. “As far as everything goes, he brings everything to the table. His on-ice play and leadership, having him in the room, all in all, he’s just someone we’ve really missed. It will be a huge boost for our lineup to get him back.”
When Okposo is ready to return, Bailey, his former linemate, is sure he’ll be ready to go.
“I will not be surprised if he steps right in,” Bailey said. “That’s just how good he is. Obviously he’s been out a long time and it might take a couple games, but with him, he’ll be ready to go and he’ll be prepared. The type of player he is, he’ll be able to step right back in.”
For now, it’s just good for him to be out there on the ice with his teammates.
“Kyle, it’s a long road for him with the injury,” Capuano said. “For him, if you talk to him, it’s good being around the guys again. He skated with the team today, but he can’t do anything physically right now. But for him, mentally, it’s a good sign for him. So he’s having a lot of fun around the guys, being out there, so when he does get back it’s going to be a big plus for our hockey team.”