The much-anticipated return of Kyle Okposo took place on Thursday (1/20) night, and I can report that he looked good. It would have been a better night if the Islanders as a whole had looked good over sixty minutes. However, as they often do, they started slowly, fell behind early, and never recovered.
The Islanders dropped Kyle's season debut 2-1 to Washington. Although the Caps are a far more talented team, the Islanders had chances (including six unconverted power play chances) against neophyte goalie Braden Holtby. Instead they dug a two goal hole and played almost all but the first 3:41 from behind.
"I thought we played a pretty good game in spurts," Kyle explained after his debut. "I thought we dominated a lot of the play tonight." He lamented that defensive breakdowns led to goals by Jason Chimera and Nicklas Backstrom, which in turn led to the loss.
As for his own health, Kyle reported no difficulties. "After I got that first [contact] out of the way I knew my shoulder was strong," referring to his surgically repaired right rotator cuff.
He admitted his timing was slightly off, but that can be expected after a 44 game layoff. "Other than that my legs felt good."
The numbers testify to Kyle's statement, as the box score shows he logged 18:05 of ice time, took 8 shots (including a few missed ones that resonated loudly off the boards), dished out a hit, and earned 6:26 on the power play.
Everyone who watched from the press box noticed that Kyle was willing to get into the slot to fire off his shots, a few times going hard to the net too. His game as a power forward doesn't seem to have suffered during the hiatus.
He did admit to a mistake in the defensive zone which directly led to the game's first goal. "I was backchecking on [Backstrom] and I knew he was looking for Ovechkin and I just pulled back at the last second. He kind of slipped through my legs and got by me and that was all the time that he needed to pass it in front."
Coach Jack Capuano, who last coached Kyle in Bridgeport in March of 2008, seemed happy with the way KO's comeback turned out.
"I was pleased. The one thing I was a little concerned about was the physicality of the game and the wall play, the play down low and the 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 battles." The coach summed it up by declaring, "I thought he handled it pretty well."
With that said, the coach felt that Kyle would be ready and able to face Buffalo on Friday (1/21) night.
News and Notes:
- Also making his return from an injury (groin) was center Frans Nielsen. Nielsen earned 16:27 of ice time, 4:46 of it on the power play. He did not record a point.
- Michael Grabner scored the lone Islanders goal. Rick DiPietro started in net and saved 22 of 24 shots on goal.
- After the game, Rick DiPietro felt the lingering effects of flu-like symptoms he experienced earlier in the week. He took IV fluids but did not travel on the team plane to Buffalo.
- Attendance was 9,119.