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The Islanders will do battle tonight with the Ottawa Senators tonight at the Nassau Coliseum. The two teams have not met since November 4 when the Senators beat the Islanders 4-1 in the Canadian capital city. The Senators come into the game 2-5-3 in their last ten games. While the Islanders are 6-3-1.

In net it will be the battle of the rookies tonight. Jack Capuano confirmed this morning that Kevin Poulin will get the start tonight against the Sens. “He competes and he battles. He has that mentality of a starting goaltender,” head coach Jack Capuano said after today’s morning skate. “After the performance he had he deserves to get right back in there and get at it again.” The Sens will start rookie goalie Robin Lehner, who is making his first career NHL start tonight.

Notes from the Morning skate.

-Frans Nielson will miss another game tonight. Capuano confirmed that the Islander forward would not play tonight. Nielson was on the Ice skating this morning with the rest of the team however. Obviously a good sign that he should be back sooner rather than later. Capuano told reporters, “He’s obviously progressing but we’re not going to rush him back.”

-Rick Dipietro is also feeling better according to the head coach. “Rick is doing well,” Capuano told reporters. “He’s had a couple good days of practice and again not going to rush him but he’s feeling much better.” There is a chance Dipietro could go Saturday if he is up to the task.

-Kyle Okposo was on the ice practicing with the team again today. As for when he’ll be back there was no definitive answer. “I’m closer than I was last week,” Okposo told reporters gathered around his stall. “I feel pretty good, I feel strong so hopefully sooner rather than later.” He later added, “I’m just trying to get it strong and make sure I don’t come back too soon but it could be as early as next week. You never know so we’ll see.”

For the 21 year old forward the next step to returning would be getting roughed up a bit and have that shoulder banged around a little bit and make sure it holds up. “I can pretty much do everything,” Okposo said. it’s just there’s a little bit of the strengthening stuff to be done with the smallest muscles in there that are still a little bit weak. But they’re getting there and I’m seeing improvement from day to day which is really encouraging for me.”

Okposo has found even greater encouragement finally being back out there with his teammates. “I really want to play and just being out there with the guys it’s been great the last couple days. I’m just going to keep working hard.”

-The Islanders locker room was filled with reporters this morning , usually what happens when any Canadian team comes to town, many of them gathered around Zenon Konopka’s locker. The reason, Konopka did appreciate hearing his team being called the NHL’s doormat on TSN. So he decided to make a point of calling out the TSN reporters in attendance and shout "We're not a doormat anymore. Stop calling us a doormat."  Konopka sat around talking to many of the Canadian media about it and having a few laughs. As I walked by I overheard him say that he doesn’t even own a doormat.

-With all the controversy the Spin O Rama Mason Raymond did on Kevin Poulin the other day, I thought I’d ask Poulin about it. He responded, “I don’t think any goalie would appreciate it and I think it’s a show off move, that’s all”

I asked him what he would do differently the next time he was in a shootout. He responded, “Well it’s hard  to read so it’s just be a little more prepared and have my stick more active.”

-Matt Martin has the scare to remember how hard Tanner Glass hit him.  “The eye’s fine,” Martin told me when I asked about it. “It feels good and I’m ready to go tonight.”  As for the punch he took, the warrior Matt Martin said it was “no big deal.”

Quotes

“I think it shows that we’re really turning a corner here. We’ve been playing really well as of late and we’ve been playing really against some top teams. Obviously except for the games in Chicago and the game in New York there we’ve been competing every night. We’re starting to believe in ourselves and each other and we’re becoming closer together as a group.” – Matt Martin

“We have to come out with the mindset that we have to be ready right off the bat. I mean Vancouver is a really good team, you give them credit, but like you said we were not prepared. It might be coming off a long road trip and being a little tired and a little bit down, but it’s unacceptable. We came back in the second and played pretty good hockey.” – Matt Martin