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Islanders' Okposo to return to lineup vs. Maple Leafs

by Dan Rosen

MAPLE LEAFS (12-14-7) at ISLANDERS (19-11-5)


NEW YORK -- New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo will play against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Barclays Center on Sunday after missing the past two games because of a lower-body injury. Islanders forward Steve Bernier will be a healthy scratch.

However, Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak was placed on injured reserve Sunday retroactive to Dec. 21 because of an upper-body injury. Thomas Greiss will start in net for the Islanders, who recalled Christopher Gibson from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League to serve as the backup goalie.

Okposo hasn't played since Dec. 17 at the Colorado Avalanche. He has eight goals and an Islanders-high 26 points this season.

"It was the plan to see how my body reacted with the week-plus off and once I skated [Saturday] I realized I was able to go, able to play and play my game," Okposo said.

Okposo said his timing might be off at the start of the game but that he expects it to return quickly. He also doesn't feel he'll be too far behind because everybody on the ice will be playing their first game since the end of the holiday break, which ran Wednesday through Friday.

The Islanders haven't played since Monday. The Maple Leafs have been off since Tuesday.

"Everybody is in the same boat," Okposo said. "I just missed four extra days or whatever it was. It'll be good to just get back out there and get into a game. Everybody might be a little bit rusty. But after the first couple of shifts it should be all right."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Okposo's injury still nags at him a bit but there are no restrictions on what he should be able to do.

"I expect him to play his normal game or else we wouldn't have inserted him," Capuano said. "All players at this time of year, you play as hard as these guys play in the National Hockey League, you're going to be a little bit banged up. He feels real good. He had a good skate [Saturday]. He went through the full practice with no pain. So we'll give him a shot here tonight and see how it goes."

The Maple Leafs will have goalie James Reimer back on the bench as a backup to starter Jonathan Bernier. Reimer has missed the past seven games because of a groin injury.

Reimer could start at least one of the Maple Leafs' next two games, Tuesday at home against the Islanders and Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"It feels pretty good," Reimer said. "I think whenever you get hurt it takes a long time to in essence probably fully, fully heal. But when you get to where it's 99 percent you feel real good. You don't know until you get into a game. But we've stressed it hard and it's held together well so I feel there should be no problems."

Here are the projected lineups:


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - PA Parenteau

Michael Grabner - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Daniel Winnik - Peter Holland - Joffrey Lupul

Shawn Matthias - Byron Froese - Brad Boyes

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner - Dion Phaneuf

Roman Polak - Martin Marincin

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Nick Spaling (upper body), Garret Sparks (lower body)

Scratched: Frank Corrado


Brock Nelson - John Tavares - Ryan Strome

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Anders Lee - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolay Kulemin

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Travis Hamonic

Calvin de Haan - Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey - Brian Strait

Thomas Greiss

Christopher Gibson

Injured: Jaroslav Halak (upper body)

Scratched: Marek Zidlicky, Steve Bernier

Status report: Zidlicky will be a healthy scratch for the second straight game. … Gibson was not at the morning skate. … Grabner will play his first game against the Islanders since they traded him to Toronto on Sept. 15. He had 90 goals and 144 points in 297 games with the Islanders in the past five seasons. … Winnik will play his 600th NHL game.

Who's hot: Van Riemsdyk has five goals and eight points in the past six games and 13 points in the past 12 games. … Komarov has 10 points in the past seven games and nine goals and 14 points in the past 12.


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