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Kyle Okposo to join Sabres on road trip, Marco Scandella's status unknown

The Buffalo Sabres received positive news on the status of Kyle Okposo Saturday morning but were awaiting word on the availability of one of their defensemen.

Okposo, who left for the dressing room and did not return following a third-period fight with Tony DeAngelo in Friday's 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers, did not suffer a concussion and was held out of practice as a precaution Saturday in Harborcenter, coach Phil Housley said.

While Okposo will join the Sabres for their three-game road trip, Marco Scandella was evaluated by team doctors Saturday and did not board the team charter to Newark, N.J. Defensemen Zach Bogosian and goalie Linus Ullmark did not practice for "maintenance."

"Scandella is being re-evaluated by our doctors; we'll know more later on today," Housley told reporters.

Okposo's status is noteworthy given he was hospitalized because of a concussion and subsequent reaction to medication in March 2017. The 30-year-old hit Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello from behind in the third period Friday, which drew the ire of DeAngelo.

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Okposo squared off with DeAngelo but was struck in the jaw and fell to the ice before he could throw a punch. Okposo immediately skated to the bench and left for the dressing room. He was unavailable to comment following the game.

It was the first time Okposo had fought since November 2015 and only the fourth time in his career. DeAngelo, 23, has gotten into four fights since making his NHL debut in 2016.

"You never want to see one of your teammates get hurt," Bogosian said of Okposo following the loss. "Great job by him, though. It’s not an easy thing to do what he did. Obviously you tip your cap to him."

With Okposo absent Saturday, Conor Sheary was bumped down to the fourth line and Casey Mittelstadt skated on the second line with Evan Rodrigues and Sam Reinhart.

Scandella did not record a shot on goal during his 16 minutes, seven seconds of ice time Friday against New York. However, he did leave for the dressing room in the second period of the Sabres' 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders Tuesday night. Scandella returned for more than six minutes of game time later and finished with 18 minutes, 46 seconds of total ice time.

He did not appear to be limited against the Rangers but finished with a minus-2 rating. The 28-year-old could join the Sabres at some point during the road trip, pending the medical staff's evaluation.

Either Matt Hunwick or Nathan Beaulieu would replace Scandella in the lineup when the Sabres face the New Jersey Devils at 6 p.m. Sunday.

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Mittelstadt appears ready to return to the lineup Sunday night in New Jersey. The 20-year-old rookie center missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, and the Sabres' lack of scoring depth was evident Friday against the Rangers.

Mittelstadt has eight goals among 19 points with a minus-5 rating in 55 games this season. It's unclear if he will remain on a line with Rodrigues and Reinhart since Housley did not rule out Okposo playing against the Devils.

"I felt good today," Mittelstadt said. "It's good to see yourself moving forward and taking steps. It's something to build off of for sure."

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The Sabres used makeshift defensive pairings with Bogosian and Scandella absent from practice. Beaulieu skated with Hunwick, while Rasmus Dahlin was with Jake McCabe and Lawrence Pilut skated with Rasmus Ristolainen.

Ryan Vinz, an assistant coach for the Buffalo Beauts, filled in as an emergency goalie with Ullmark receiving a maintenance day.

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