Compared to where he was three weeks ago, Kyle Okposo feels pretty good.
Okposo returned to the Islanders lineup on March 10 against the New York Rangers after missing 22 games recovering from eye surgery (detached retina), but getting back in the lineup was only half the battle.
“The first game back, you’re on pure adrenaline,” Okposo said. “It kind of gets worse after that before it gets better, but I definitely feel better than I did.”
Okposo was held pointless in his first four games, but is finding the scoresheet again with three points (two goals, one assist) in his last five games. He scored an empty-netter against New Jersey and had a shot deflect off his skate against Detroit.
“When you get points, you get more confidence,” Okposo said. “When you’re not getting them, you might start to overthinkthings a little bit, fight that mental battle, but you have to trust your game and trust yourself as a player.”
For Okposo, it’s been a process to regain his physical and mental timing. His muscle memory faded during his lengthy absence and only so much can be regained in practice, so when the Islanders schedule slowed in the middle of March, it did Okposo a disservice.
“I come in and everybody is in mid-season form and you’re in training camp form,” Okposo said. “You haven’t had the reps when you come back from injury. You have to skate as much as you can and get those reps in to create that muscle memory where everything feels natural. As far as decision making, that just comes with the amount of games you play.”
If reps are the answer, then it should benefit Okposo to get a full month of games in before the playoffs start. In January the focus was recovery. In March the focus was timing. In April, it’s sharpening for the postseason.
“I just want to work on being aggressive and making sure that I am playing well each game and that my fundamentals are good,” Okposo said. “And getting my mental game sharp for the run here.”
Nielsen Practices, Leaves:
Frans Nielsen practiced with the Islanders this morning, but left midway through the skate. Nielsen had taken a series of maintenance days as the Islanders schedule compacted in February and early March, but Head Coach Jack Capuano did not confirm whether he’d have the center for Thursday’s game in Columbus.
“He’s been taking some maintenance days, so today’s no different,” Capuano said. “We’ve given him some time to rest and heal and we’ve had him, so we’ll talk to our trainers and see where we’re at.”