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Islanders' Okposo to hit milestone vs. Blue Jackets

New York's leading scorer will play in 500th NHL game

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

ISLANDERS (27-18-6) at BLUE JACKETS (21-28-5)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-O, NHL.TV

COLUMBUS -- No matter what happens Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, right wing Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders will have a second straight memorable game.

Okposo, the 7th pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, will play in his 500th NHL game. 

"You hit certain milestones in your career," he said. "A lot of them you want to look back on at the end of your career and kind of reflect, but when you get to 500 games, it's pretty cool." 

He enters the game on a roll after his second career hat trick and an assist in an 8-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. 

Okposo, 27, leads the Islanders with 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists). 

"He's always been a leader, a guy who comes to the rink every day and wants to be better," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, who also coached Okposo at Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. "He prepares himself. He wants to be an elite player." 

Okposo made his NHL debut on March 18, 2008, vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs, and is proud he's been with one organization. 

"We've definitely gone through ups and downs here," he said. "I've been through it all over the past eight years or so." 

Okposo has 132 goals and 214 assists for 346 points in the NHL. 

"He's one of our core leaders," left wing Brock Nelson said. 

The Islanders will try to make it four straight this season against the Blue Jackets, having defeated them twice in Columbus. But this will be the first time New York will see Blue Jackets rookie goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.  

Curtis McElhinney played twice against the Islanders and rookie Anton Forsberg once. With McElhinney and No. 1 goalie Sergei Bobrovsky injured, Korpisalo has stepped up. In the past six games he's 4-1-1 with a 2.37 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. 

"He's been outstanding," Columbus coach John Tortorella said. "I think our team is playing off him in how patient and solid he looks in net. I hope I don't jinx him, I probably will, but I have to speak on him. He's been outstanding." 

Korpisalo struggled in his first few games before finding his groove and is 7-6-2 with a 2.64 GAA and .919 save percentage for the season. 

"The first couple of games you could tell he had some jitters," Blue Jackets left wing Scott Hartnell said. "Now he's more comfortable. It seems like when the puck is hitting him they're staying in the spot or he's catching them. There's no second, third, fourth chances." 

Tortorella said he has no idea when Bobrovsky or McElhinney might return but he's pleased with the way Korpisalo, 21, has taken advantage of the situation. 

"[Korpisalo] not only opened the door, he's pushed it fully open," Tortorella said. 

Here are the projected lineups: 

Mikhail Grabovski - John Tavares - Ryan Strome  
Nikolay Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo  
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey  
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck  

Travis Hamonic - Calvin de Haan  
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk  
Brian Strait - Thomas Hickey  

Jaroslav Halak  
Thomas Greiss  

Injured: Eric Boulton (upper body), Adam Pelech (upper body) 
Scratched: Jean-Francois Berube, Steve Bernier, Marek Zidlicky  

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson  
Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg - Brandon Saad  
Kerby Rychel - William Karlsson - Matt Calvert  
Nick Foligno - Gregory Campbell - Rene Bourque  

Ryan Murray - Seth Jones  
Jack Johnson - Cody Goloubef  
Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout  

Joonas Korpisalo 
Anton Forsberg 

Scratched: Justin Falk, Jared Boll  
Injured: Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), Curtis McElhinney (ankle), David Clarkson (upper body), David Savard (oblique) 

Status report: Halak returns for the Islanders after Greiss played Sunday. Strait makes his second straight start in place of Zidlicky. … The Blue Jackets will use the same lineup that defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1 on Friday. 

Who's hot: Nelson has 8 points (two goals, six assists) in nine games. Okposo has three goals and three assists in four games. Leddy has four assists in two games. … Jones has seven assists and is plus-7 in the past 10 games. 

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