Kyle Okposo's solid season -- 12 goals and 22 assists -- has strengthened his candidacy for the U.S. Olympic hockey team. At least that is the way Islanders coach Jack Capuano sees it.

Capuano acknowledged that Okposo has gone through dry spells but said he has come back stronger. Then Capuano was asked what impact Okposo has felt from playing on a line with John Tavares and Thomas Vanek.

"I think it's more of how Kyle himself is playing," he said. "He went through some tough stretches there. But he's playing physical. He's grinding it out, he's puck protecting, he's shooting pucks. To me, it's about confidence. He's playing poised, he's playing relaxed. I think that's the biggest difference now. He's using his size and he's skating well.

"His numbers are real good, but more importantly, this is a guy who's been a leader wherever he's been. He's a high-character guy and those are important ingredients when you're putting a team together like the Olympic team."

Okposo admits he has thought about what an honor it would be to represent the country in Sochi, Russia. "It's in the back of your mind, obviously, especially with the world junior tournament going on now. I've been following that a little bit," he said. "But I'm set here with the Islanders and trying to keep playing well. Any time you come to the rink for practice or a game, it's all Islanders."