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 Wednesday 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 highest-scoring wingers, 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.
The Sabres host the Florida Panthers tonight.
Fresh off a game in which the Devils outcompeted them, the Sabres looked sluggish early in Wednesday’s practice before a few thousand school children inside KeyBank Center.
At one point, Housley stopped practice and spoke to his team. 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.”
Sabres defenseman Nathan Beaulieu (upper body) and center Jacob Josefson practiced as regulars Wednesday, meaning they could return against the Panthers.
Josefson has recovered from a lower-body injury and waiting his turn to play.
Former Sabres defenseman Mike Weber, who recently retired, has been named an assistant coach for the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires, his former junior team.