NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The one bright spot in the Sabres’ continued free-fall Monday night was the 11:40 of ice time given to Kyle Okposo, who returned after missing four games due to a concussion. The 30-year-old forward took a punch from Tony DeAngelo of the New York Rangers on Feb. 15 and suffered his third such injury in the last two years.
The concussion he suffered in 2017 sent him into a dark period where he just wasn’t himself, worrying friends and family around him. So this latest incident had many worried for Okposo, wondering if he would ever play again.
After the fight, he joined the Sabres on their road trip to New Jersey before being sent back to Buffalo for evaluation. Doctors diagnosed him with another concussion, but he was back on the ice two days later and progressed from there.
According to Okposo, this latest concussion was “more precautionary than anything” and the discomfort was more in his neck than head.
Even with his history, Okposo didn’t look back and regret his decision with fight DeAngelo.
“No, I probably should,” he said via the Buffalo News. “It’s part of the game. I missed a grab and that’s what happened. It’s part of the game. I didn’t think we were playing well, just trying to give the team a little spark. It is what it is.”
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The Sabres’ could use a spark right now as they’re mired in a slump that’s seen them win three times in 11 games and fall six points back of an Eastern Conference wild card spot. Getting a healthy Okposo back helps, as does adding Brandon Montour to the blue line via a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. But there’s still plenty of work to do in order to give themselves a chance. Follow tonight’s game against the Flyers, they have a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat them 5-3 last night. Time is running out to make their move in the East.
For Okposo, he knows his body and he feels he’s more than ready to continue playing on a regular basis, even with his injury history.
“I think there’s a physiological component to it, too,” he said. “You get hit and obviously I know my history more than anybody. There’s definitely that component of, ‘Am I OK?’ And then you start second guessing. You just got to find a balance.
“You’ve got to really be in tune with your body and your mind and be really honest with yourself and how you feel. I feel great.”
Gord Miller (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.