BUFFALO – At the 5:31 mark of the third period in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, Taylor Hall knocked Sabres winger Kyle Okposo into the boards from behind.
While Okposo bounced right back up, the hit, which only earned Hall a two-minute boarding minor, was scary.
“That’s the play you’re trying to eliminate, right?” Okposo said today after the NHL fined Hall $5,000, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement. “There’s no place for that.”
Okposo said he had no idea Hall, one of the NHL’s top scorers, was coming from a notable distance away.
“I was not ready for contact at all,” he said. “If I stayed down, then the ref says it’s a five(-minute penalty). But why should that matter? It’s a same play, in my opinion. I got up because I was mad. I was looking around for who did it, and I saw him, and it didn’t register. Like, I was looking for somebody else.
“Obviously, I know him a little bit. I know he’s not that kind of player. But still, that was a bad hit. I didn’t turn or anything. I was going to get the puck, he buried me behind into the boards.”
Perhaps if Okposo milked it and stayed down, then the referee would’ve given Hall a major penalty.
“It’s not my style,” said Okposo, who said he was taught to get up.
Sabres coach Phil Housley said the distance skated to hit a vulnerable Okposo – Hall wasn’t close to the boards – should’ve made the hit a major and a game misconduct.
In other news, Housley mixed up some lines today, putting struggling winger Evander Kane back at left wing beside Jack Eichel, his center most of the season, and Okposo. Kane recently played with Johan Larsson.
Kane has mustered zero goals and one assist in the last 10 games and has scored just four of his 16 goals in the last 28 outings. The 26-year-old will be a free agent this summer and will almost certainly be traded in the coming weeks.
“Anybody in his situation, sometimes it can be difficult, especially going through a stretch where a lot of things aren’t going your way,” Housley said. “He’s just got to find a way to work through it. You go back, he hit a crossbar on the road, maybe that would’ve sparked him in Vancouver (on Thursday). He’s getting some opportunities. It’s just hasn’t been going in.”
Check back later for a full story on Kane.
Fresh off a game in which the Devils outcompeted them, the Sabres looked sluggish early in today’s practice before a few thousand school children inside KeyBank Center.
At one point, Housley stopped practice. After that, the tempo picked up.
“I shouldn’t have to address our team today and give them the reaction,” Housley said. “We should’ve been better and ready to play.”