New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo waited like everyone else for the announcement of the United States team that will compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He was hoping he'd be named to the team, hopes that gained momentum the past couple of weeks.
Okposo's resume is impressive. His 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) through 41 games is tied for 12th in the League and he has five goals and six assists during his current seven-game point streak.
At the conclusion of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, names were called in alphabetical order. There were two players with O at the start of their last name, but it was Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie.
Prior to the Islanders' morning skate Thursday, Okposo took to Twitter to thank fans for the encouragement. Following the skate his attention turned to the Islanders' game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I just want to play my game and keep moving forward," Okposo told reporters. "They picked the best team in their opinion to get the gold and I'm disappointed that I'm not part of it. … I'm going to keep going and working on my game. I will watch the games. I have a lot of friends over there on all teams."
Despite sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division with 33 points and going 0-4-4 in their past eight games at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders have proven recently to be a tough out and go after their third straight victory when they face the Blackhawks. New York (13-21-7) is 5-3-2 in its past 10 games, has scored a combined 10 goals in back-to-back road wins against the Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins, and is 6-2-2 in its past 10 games against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Islanders will go with the same lineup against Chicago they deployed at Boston. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov will start for the eighth time in nine games since returning from a groin injury. Forward Josh Bailey (upper body), was on the ice for the morning skate but remains day-to-day and will miss his third consecutive game.
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford will start after missing the past 10 games with a lower-body injury. Chicago went 8-1-2 in Crawford's absence, with rookie Antti Raanta filling in.
Here are the projected lineups for the Islanders and Blackhawks:
Thomas Vanek - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Cal Clutterbuck
Brock Nelson - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald
Peter Regin - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin
Andrew MacDonald - Thomas Hickey
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Brian Strait - Matt Carkner
Scratched: Eric Boulton
Injured: Josh Bailey (upper body), Radek Martinek (back spasms), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion)
Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg - Michal Handzus - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell- Andrew Shaw - Brandon Saad
Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy -- Michael Kostka
Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Rozsival, Jason LaBarbera
Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body)