UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Top-line forward Kyle Okposo was back in the New York Islanders’ lineup Tuesday night for a key matchup against the New York Rangers after missing 22 games following emergency surgery to fix a detached retina.
Okposo returned as the Islanders hosted the Rangers at Nassau Coliseum for the last time before the club relocates to Brooklyn next season.
Okposo is still second on the Islanders with 44 points despite not playing since Jan. 19. He had eye surgery then, and there was a fear he might not be able to see out of it again.
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”It was definitely a scary thing,” Okposo said. ”The doctor told me my vision wasn’t guaranteed to come back.
”I’m just excited to get the game and try to help out the team. It’s a fun game to come back to. . Barring a postseason visit, this is going to be the last game. It’s been a little bit nostalgic this year.”
The Islanders entered the night atop the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of the Rangers, who have four games in hand.
To make room on the roster for Okposo, who was activated from the injured list, the Islanders sent forward Kael Mouillierat back to Bridgeport of the AHL. Fellow forward Michael Grabner sat out as a healthy scratch.
While Okposo returned, the Islanders were without stalwart defenseman Nick Leddy, who had played in 320 consecutive games – 68 since joining New York from the Chicago Blackhawks. The streak began Jan. 7, 2011.
The 23-year-old Leddy, who recently agreed to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract extension, was hurt in the Islanders’ overtime win at Toronto on Monday night. He was replaced by Brian Strait, who had been scratched the previous four games and seven of eight.
Okposo has 14 goals and 30 assists in 46 games this season. He hadn’t missed any games before this ailment. He had been playing on a line with NHL leading scorer John Tavares and Josh Bailey at the time of his injury.