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On The Top Line

Kyle Okposo has joined John Tavares and Matt Moulson on a line that will be counted on to produce in 2012-13

Tuesday, 01.15.2013 / 6:06 PM / News
By Travis Betts
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On The Top Line
Kyle Okposo has joined John Tavares and Matt Moulson on a line that will be counted on to produce in 2012-13

With a shortened training camp, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano doesn’t have time to experiment with forward lines.

Though early speculation was that newcomer Brad Boyes would be given the first crack at playing top-line minutes alongside John Tavares and Matt Moulson, Capuano has opted instead for a proven solution in right wing Kyle Okposo.

“With a short camp, we thought it’d be best to try Kyle on that line,” Capuano said. “Kyle played a short stint with Johnny and Mouls last season and they were probably one of the top lines in the league.”

Okposo has practiced with Tavares and Moulson through the first three days of training camp. The second line role, which he filled last season alongside Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner, has gone to Boyes.

“We played together off and on for the last four years so it’s nothing really new,” Okposo said. “It’s been good to be back on that line with those guys.”

The 6’0, 212-pound Okposo tallied a career-high 24 goals last season, including nine in the final nine games. Only Moulson scored on a higher percentage of his shots (16.4%) than Okposo (15.8%). Moulson believes that the 24-year-old winger’s presence will give the top line more versatility.

“Okie is definitely great on the forecheck,” Moulson said. “He’s got a great shot too. He’s a scoring threat as well as making plays, and I think we’re more of a down low kind of line when you add Kyle.”

Moulson (36 goals), Tavares (31 goals) and Okposo (24 goals) were the team’s top three goal scorers last season. The regular right wing on the top line last season, PA Parenteau, was known for his pass-first style, but with his departure during the offseason, one of the most coveted wings in the NHL became vacant.

Tavares says that Okposo’s style of play gives the Islanders three players on the top line who are legitimate scoring threats in all situations.

“Kyle is more of a power-forward type of player – real strong, with real powerful speed,” Tavares said. “He’s got a great shot. The things we want to be really good at are five-on-five in-zone and half-court situations where we can be strong on the puck down low and create offense that way. We had great success last year with Kyle for the month-and-a-half or two months that we played together.”

Last season the top line accounted for 42% of Islanders goals. While Capuano is aiming to have a more balanced squad this season, the importance of that top line scoring remains paramount.

“As far as that line, yeah, we’re looking to create some offense.” Capuano said. “Kyle is a big-body guy, he protects the puck real well. He’s got a quick release. Moulson is really good around the net. I’m hoping they can get off to a good start.”

In a 48-game season, that quick start will be all the more crucial. No matter the results, Tavares knows the lines will likely fluctuate at one point or another. With fewer practices available for players to learn each other’s tendencies, how well players adjust to those changes will be key.

“I can’t remember any team in any situation in any organization that’s kept the lines exactly the same from day one to the end of the season,” Tavares said. “A lot can happen. I would expect things to change with the ups and downs of the season. We’ve got to find success and chemistry. The three of us have had it before, and we’re looking to lead the way again.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
3 NYI 62 40 20 2 200 173 82
4 TBL 62 37 19 6 203 167 80
5 DET 60 34 15 11 176 156 79
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 62 33 19 10 184 156 76
8 BOS 60 29 22 9 158 158 67
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 59 26 23 10 167 161 62
12 NJD 61 25 27 9 137 161 59
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 59 22 30 7 134 159 51
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 62 29 34 4 63
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 62 13 26 21 39
B. Nelson 62 17 19 6 36
F. Nielsen 62 11 25 11 36
A. Lee 56 20 12 12 32
J. Bailey 50 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 52 7 22 15 29
N. Leddy 62 8 17 14 25
T. Hamonic 52 4 19 16 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 32 13 0 .910 2.49
C. Johnson 8 7 1 .890 2.95

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