TORONTO – Kyle Okposo smiled at his stall in the Scotiabank Arena visitors dressing room Monday morning and uttered three words that would have been shocking hours earlier.
"Ready to go," Okposo beamed ahead of rejoining the Buffalo Sabres for their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Okposo's teammates and coach expressed elation after he joined them for the morning skate. They are aware of the angst he endured in 10 days since suffering a concussion, his third in less than three years, during a fight with the New York Rangers' Anthony DeAngelo.
Okposo, a 30-year-old winger, waited and hoped his symptoms would not worsen. He resumed skating Thursday and did not require a practice for coach Phil Housley to insert him back into the lineup.
"A little bit," Okposo said when asked if he feared for his condition. "I think there’s a psychological component, too. You get hit and I obviously know my history better than anybody. There’s definitely that component of, ‘Am I OK?’ ... You just have to find a balance. You have to be in tune with your body and your mind. Be really honest with yourself and how you feel. I feel great now."
Okposo was punched in the left jaw after failing to grab DeAngelo by the collar in the third period of a 6-2 loss to the Rangers.
Following the fight, Okposo joined the Sabres on their trip to Newark, N.J., and skated with a few teammates last Sunday. He did not participate in the pregame warmup and was sent back to Buffalo for further evaluation.
The Sabres announced Tuesday that Okposo was diagnosed with a concussion, and he was placed on injured reserve Friday. He resumed skating Thursday and attended the team's 5-2 win over Washington on Saturday.
While Okposo and doctors monitored his progress, he said neck discomfort proved to be the worst part of the injury and called his four-game absence "precautionary." He did not second guess his decision to fight DeAngelo, either.
"No," Okposo said when asked if he wished he didn't fight. "I probably should [second guess the decision]. 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."
A concussion suffered during practice in March 2017 and severe reaction to medication landed him in Buffalo General Medical Center's Neurological Intensive Care Unit.
Okposo was unable to resume off-ice training immediately after his release from the hospital. He returned to the lineup in time for the start of the season but suffered another concussion in March after a collision with Ottawa's Bobby Ryan. Okposo missed three games after the hit but played in the final 11 games of the season.
"Obviously with his history, you don’t want to see a guy like that miss any games with a concussion or whatever he had, but obviously it was nice to see him have a quick recovery and be back out there with us," said Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues.
The Sabres made a paper move with the league to make forward Tage Thompson eligible to play with the Rochester Americans in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. Thompson was demoted to the Amerks, only to be officially recalled in time for Monday's game in Toronto.
Additionally, winger Danny O'Regan was assigned to Rochester by the Sabres and goalie Adam Wilcox cleared waivers after signing a one-year, two-way contract Sunday. Wilcox has rejoined the Amerks.
Cliff Pu, the 20-year-old winger sent by the Sabres to Carolina in the Jeff Skinner trade, was dealt by the Hurricanes to the Florida Panthers before the deadline. Pu has one goal in 44 AHL games and was demoted to the ECHL. He will join the Panthers' AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.