Nielsen's Next Level; Injuries Pile Up

Frans Nielsen piles up points, Kyle Okposo leaves practice

Friday, 03.21.2014 / 3:05 PM ET / News
By Cory Wright
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Nielsen\'s Next Level; Injuries Pile Up
Frans Nielsen piles up points, Islanders pile up injuries.

MSG’s Stan Fischler recently referred to Frans Nielsen as one of the most underrated players in the league. Fischler and other keen observers of the Islanders have long heralded Nielsen for his defensive play, but the Danish center is coming into his own as a scorer. This season Nielsen established new career highs in goals (22) and points (49) and will likely hit the 50-point plateau for the first time.

“I got off to a really good start and I think that helped,” Nielsen said. “I’ve been riding that start all year, but I am always lucky enough to be in a good position. Every game I have good players around me so that helps.”

Nielsen had seven goals and eight assists in October, including three, three-point games. A multi-point effort from Nielsen bodes well for the Islanders, who are 7-0-1 if he gets on the scoresheet twice.

While Nielsen is currently centering the Islanders’ top line in place of the injured John Tavares, the Dane anchored the Islanders second unit until the Olympic break. Nielsen said his new role has its perks such as increased 5-on-5 ice time – Nielsen plays power play and penalty kill – but it’s a challenge to be the guy on a nightly basis.

“It’s not an easy job that Johnny has there,” Nielsen said in an interview with Isles TV’s Greg Picker. “I’ve always felt that I was capable of doing it, but it’s only been a short period of time. To do it for 82 games, that’s what is so impressive in what Johnny does.”

Nielsen’s play has impressed his teammates, who are thrilled to see him step up in every situation this season, especially with a consistently changing roster.

“He was so good to start the season and he’s really continued his play,” Kyle Okposo said. “He’s had a lot of different wingers throughout the year, but he just keeps going.”

Okposo went on citing Nielsen’s ability to enter the zone with the man advantage and help the Islanders set up their formation. He called it an underrated, but highly important skill. Okposo also said that he sees other teams keying in on Nielsen, which is a compliment – and a challenge – for any player.

Nielsen, one of the few Danish NHLers, is a well-known athlete in his native land. His teammates call him the Danish prince and joke that he’s a celebrity in Denmark because he gets recognized and stopped when walking down the streets of Herning.

Between his fans in Denmark, his foes in the NHL and his new title of 20-goal scorer, Nielsen may be underrated no more.

Okposo leaves practice as injures mount:

The Islanders roster was dealt another blow Friday morning, as the team announced that Kyle Okposo was day-to-day with a lower-body injury. The Islanders recent rash of injuries includes: Michael Grabner (concussion), Brian Strait (broken hand) and Lubomir Visnovsky (upper body), along with John Tavares’ season-ending injury.

Grabner was hurt in the Isles 7-4 win in Vancouver on March 10, while Strait broke his hand blocking a shot Tuesday night. Visnovsky is believed to have been injured earlier this week, while Okposo left today’s practice. Both are listed as day-to-day.

“It takes me longer to read the injury report than it has at any other point since I’ve been here,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “I haven’t seen anything like this in a while.

Capuano said he was frustrated with the injuries, saying they present challenges with teaching and developing the nine rookies on his roster.

“It’s hard when guys are coming in and out of the lineup,” Capuano said. “We are playing with different line combinations, playing with different players. It makes it hard to keep the continuity of the team together.”

While there are a lack of bodies on the ice, some of the injured players are still having an impact off of it. Tavares has been at all Islanders home games since his MCL tear and is offering advice from the birds-eye view at Nassau Coliseum.

“Having the guys around helps,” Ryan Strome said. “Even just to talk to them and see how they handle these situations.”

Pulock, Reinhart named WHL All-Stars:

Islanders’ prospects Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock were named to the Western Hockey League’s All-Star teams Friday. Pulock cracked the Eastern Conference first All-Star team, while Reinhart was named to the East’s second team.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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