Memories Remain as Okposo faces Islanders in Brooklyn

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NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders pushes the puck away from Kyle Okposo #21 of the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at the Barclays Center on December 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) 768w, 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 627px) 100vw, 627px" />

NEW YORK – Kyle Okposo had already faced his former team last week, but being back in Brooklyn was still an odd feeling for the former Islander. Friday was the first time Okposo returned to the Barclays Center with the Buffalo Sabres after signing a seven-year, $42 million deal with them during the offseason.

“I didn’t know where to go,” Okposo said ahead of Friday night’s game. “I hadn’t been down to the visitors room before so that was a little strange not going to the other side but I’m finding my way around quickly.”

While Okposo only spent one year playing in the Islanders’ new home, he became a fan favorite during the other eight years when the team called Nassau Coliseum home. The 28-year-old played 529 games with the Islanders and recorded 369 points (139 goals, 230 assists) during his tenure.

Okposo has adjusted well to his new team, already scoring nine goals and 13 assists in 31 games with Buffalo. That includes an assist on the game-winner in last Friday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Islanders.

“I have a lot of buddies over there. It was different the first time playing against them,” Okposo said about last Friday’s game in Buffalo. “You try not to say much to them on the ice and then after the game it was fun. You’re not going to be buddies on the ice but after the game, you can hug it out and say Merry Christmas.”

This time around, however, there is a much more personal resonance being back in New York.

“Just driving to the rink today and those emotions start to come back a little bit,” Okposo said. “I started to think about the fact that both of my kids were born here and I grew up here. To come back and play, it’s going to be fun, I’ll definitely have some emotions come back.

“I grew up with a lot of those guys over there so it will be fun to battle with them.”

Like the Islanders have done for the return of Matt Martin and Frans Nielsen earlier in the year, the team paid tribute to Okposo during a stoppage of play. A video tribute appeared on the video board and the fans gave him a standing ovation.

For Okposo, the Islander fans were part of what made his time with the team so special.

“They meant a lot,” Okposo said. “Playing in New York , you can face some scrutiny. When you have good times, they are definitely going to be behind you. For me, I think my game was up and down early in my career and I have to give them a lot of credit.

“They stuck behind me the last few years I was here. … Just want to say thanks for the fans for being there.”

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