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John Tavares Can't Do it Alone: Five New York Islanders Who Must Step Up in 2013-14

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John Tavares Can't Do it Alone: Five New York Islanders Who Must Step Up in 2013-14
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Josh Bailey must step up for the New York Islanders in 2013-14.

COMMENTARY | Led by one of the brightest young stars in the National Hockey League, John Tavares, the New York Islanders are a team on the rise.

However, just because the Islanders made the NHL playoffs last season, their first postseason appearance in six years, doesn't mean the team is a lock for the playoffs this year. If the Isles are going to take another step forward, other players must help the new captain in 2013-14.

Beyond Matt Moulson and Travis Hamonic, there aren't many reliable names on the roster, but a handful of players have the potential to be difference-makers this season. Here's a look at five Islanders who must step up in order to keep the Islanders moving forward.

RW Kyle Okposo -- Okposo has been an enigma since being drafted seventh overall in 2006. He has the size and skill to dominate at the NHL level, but he's only scored more than 20 goals once, a career-high 24 two seasons ago. Last year looked like another lost season when Okposo scored four goals and had 20 assists in 48 games, but he came alive in the playoffs with three goals and an assist in six contests. The Islanders are hoping he'll build on a strong postseason.

C Josh Bailey -- Bailey had 11 goals and eight assists in 38 games last season and was a major factor during the Islanders' push for the playoffs. He scored six goals and added four assists in April. The Islanders rewarded the skilled but inconsistent former first-round pick with a long-term contract extension in the offseason. Now the pressure is on Bailey to deliver and provide depth on the second line.

RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard -- Bouchard, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason, has been practicing on the top line with Tavares and Moulson since training camp opened and is the leading candidate to replace Brad Boyes. Bouchard had 13 goals and a career-best 50 assists in 2007-08, but his numbers have declined in each of the next few seasons, partly due to injuries (he missed all but one game four years ago). A return to past form could elevate the Isles' top line to elite status.

D Lubomir Visnovsky -- Visnovsky got off to an inauspicious start with the Islanders. After being obtained from the Anaheim Ducks in a trade, he was suspended for failing to report to the team when the lockout ended. However, Visnovsky scored three goals and 11 assists in 35 games and become an important part of the team. His role will expand this season with the loss of man-advantage specialist Mark Streit. Incidentally, the Isles had the 11th-best power play in the league last season.

G Evgeni Nabokov -- Nabokov was key to the Islanders' successful playoffs push last season. He posted a record of 7-0-4 with a .928 save percentage and 1.76 goals against average over the final month of the season. His strong finish made up for a slow start which saw him put up an .895 save percentage in 11 games in February. The 38-year-old Nabokov must be more consistent throughout this upcoming campaign, otherwise the Isles may have to rely on unproven backup Kevin Poulin.

Adam Martini is a lifelong fan of the New York Islanders. He is also a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience writing about amateur and professional sports, including the New York Giants for Yahoo Contributor Network.

Sources

Hockey-Reference.com.

The Official Site of the National Hockey League.

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