Kyle Okposo took a slap shot off his knee. He couldn’t walk for days. He had to watch his new team open the season without him.
Believe it or not, he feels lucky.
“My knee was about the size of a beach ball,” the Buffalo Sabres forward said Friday. “It could have been worse. I’m happy that I’m skating on it and everything is going well.”
Okposo expects to make his season debut Sunday when the Sabres visit Edmonton. He got through a full practice in KeyBank Center, the most positive sign since the Oct. 3 injury.
“It just hit me right on the bone, and it caused my whole knee to swell up,” the winger said. “A lot of fluid in there, and it really restricted my range of motion. I couldn’t really walk for a few days.
“The bruise part, it is what it is. It’s going to hurt, but it’s playable. It’s just the fluid that restricts that range of motion.”
If the healing continues, Okposo will be a much-needed addition to the lineup. Buffalo signed him to a seven-year, $42 million in July to be its top winger, and he’ll be a focal point with Jack Eichel (ankle) and Evander Kane (cracked ribs) out for weeks or months.
“I’m just going to come in and play my game and help the guys out any way I can, just try not to do too much,” Okposo said. “Teams deal with injuries all year. Unfortunately for us, they’re kind of coming at the beginning part of the year.
“We have to grow up as a team, and we’ve got to find a way to put points in the bank in October. It’s going to try and start on Sunday.”
Okposo practiced on the top line with center Ryan O’Reilly and right wing Sam Reinhart. Johan Larsson centered for left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Brian Gionta. Derek Grant was in the middle of Tyler Ennis and Nicolas Deslauriers. Zemgus Girgensons was flanked by Matt Moulson and Hudson Fasching.
Okposo noticed a lack of execution throughout the Sabres’ lineup during the season-opening 4-1 loss to Montreal. He hopes to help in the second game after disappointedly sitting out the first.
“You want to be out there, but you have to calm your mind down and just remember that it’s a long season,” Okposo said. “These things can stay with you the whole year and really affect your game. I didn’t want any lingering effects.”
Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who suffered a butt bruise Sept. 30 after being checked into the door of the Toronto bench, remains day-to-day. He practiced Friday and felt better, but he may sit again Sunday.
“It’s been getting better rapidly, then the last couple days progression kind of stopped,” Kulikov said. “Whenever it feels like I’m ready to go, I’m going to be in the lineup.”
Scary moment as an unlocked bench door leads to what might be a lower back injury for Dmitry Kulikov pic.twitter.com/10U3xwDJeG
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 1, 2016
Like Okposo, it pained him to watch the opener after joining the Sabres during the offseason.
“Having the conversation about playing or not playing was one of the toughest ones I’ve had,” Kulikov said. “The decision was made, and I think it’s for the benefit of my health and for the long term.”
Montreal’s Andrew Shaw has escaped supplemental discipline for the slew foot he delivered to Larsson as time expired. The referees tabbed Shaw with a match penalty for intent to injure, but the NHL’s player safety department said nothing further was warranted.
Shaw skated up to Larsson from behind and kicked out his leg. Larsson fell backward to the ice and narrowly avoided banging his head.
Andrew Shaw slew-footing Johan Larsson at the end of the game. Scum. pic.twitter.com/jFlZNhOGIe
— Austin (@AustinJankowiak) October 14, 2016
“It’s malicious,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “There’s three seconds on the clock. They’re not engaged. Sometimes you have a slew foot where you’re engaged with a player and that happens. He skates the distance to slew-foot a player.
“I was hoping it would be reviewed.”
After playing the Oilers on Sunday, the Sabres will visit Calgary on Tuesday and Vancouver on Thursday. To ensure enough healthy bodies for the long trip, the Sabres will call up forward Nicholas Baptiste, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Amerks coach Dan Lambert informed Baptiste of the promotion Friday night after a goal and assist in a season-opening 5-4 victory over Hershey.