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Isles players agree -- it’s ‘on’ them now

New York Islanders v Phoenix Coyotes

New York Islanders v Phoenix Coyotes

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“We feel good about the group we have,” Kyle Okposo said. “It’s on us now.”

And it starts tonight in Carolina, where the New York Islanders -- after a busy offseason of roster retooling by GM Garth Snow -- will open their regular season against the injury-ravaged Hurricanes.

It’s the only game on the NHL schedule, so the spotlight will be all theirs.

Key additions to an Isles team that finished well back of a playoff position in 2013-14 include starting goalie Jaroslav Halak, forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, and Cory Conacher, plus Stanley Cup-winning defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy.

“There’s good things happening here,” Boychuk told Newsday, despite the hurt he felt after being traded by the Bruins.

Granted, it hasn’t been all good things happening -- yesterday it was reported that speedy winger Michael Grabner would be out indefinitely after undergoing sports hernia surgery. But that couldn’t put a dent in the optimism among Isles fans. At last glance, the cheapest ticket for Saturday’s home opener, also versus Carolina, was $91 at StubHub. This for a team that finished with the fifth-lowest average attendance (14,740) in the league last season.

As for Snow, well, he’s got a lot riding on his roster’s performance in 2014-15. Don’t forget that the Isles don’t have a first-round pick in the 2015 draft; that belongs to the Sabres now, as a result of last season’s Thomas Vanek trade (the first one). So there’s a nightmare scenario at play here, and it involves New York missing the playoffs and Buffalo drafting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel with the selection the Isles sent them (for a player the Isles weren’t even able to convince to stay).

Is that nightmare scenario likely? Nope. But it will remain a possibility until a playoff spot is clinched.

“Garth was pretty aggressive this summer and the message is that last season wasn’t good enough for anyone,” captain John Tavares said.

“We’ve been building for a long time and it’s on us now to take that next step.”