UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- It seems that New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano is sending a message to his team that no player is safe.
Capuano decided to sit assistant captain Kyle Okposo for the third straight game and was cryptic in answering why.
When asked whether he was reluctant to put Okposo back in the lineup because the team has played well the past two games, or whether his benching had to do with something else, Capuano responded: "It's a little bit of both."
"We had a real good chat this morning. Kyle knows exactly what the plan is moving forward," Capuano continued. "But we had a good game last game too -- I thought everyone contributed -- but Kyle will be back in shortly."
The 23-year-old Okposo, a well-respected, highly valued player of the team's young nucleus, was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career Tuesday against the Rangers following 14 straight games without a goal.
But Capuano's comments indicate that Okposo's offensive struggles are not the only reason he's sitting.
"Conversations I've had with (Capuano) and (general manager Garth Snow) -- what's been said is between them and me -- but I'm not too surprised," Okposo said. "I just want to be out there for the team."
When asked whether he agreed with the organization's decision to sit him, Okposo took a lengthy pause and then laughed before choosing his words carefully.
"I can understand where they're coming from," he said. "I'll say that."
Okposo said it would be "pretty tough not" to feel a little extra motivation from sitting his third straight game and will try to channel that energy in a productive way.
"It's definitely frustrating, but I'm taking the positives, (like) watching games from up top," he said. "Just to get a feel for the game again and just think about the things I'm doing when I'm playing well, so I'm trying to do that."
Okposo's slumping start follows a disappointing 2010-11 season in which he missed 44 games because of a torn labrum in his shoulder and failed to hit his stride once healthy.
The former first-round pick (7th overall, 2006) notched 19 goals in
2009-10 and seemed poised for a breakout year.
"Nobody expects more out of me than I do," Okposo said. "I know they expect a lot of me, but I know how I can play. When I'm struggling I'm the one that's hardest on myself. There's nothing they can do that's going to affect my mood worse than I feel."
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com.