Captain Kyle Okposo will be on the ice Thursday night when the Buffalo Sabres opener their season against the visiting Ottawa Senators.
Okposo’s availability for the opener was in question after he sustained an upper-body injury in a preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 4.
“Yeah, he won’t be denied. He’s good,” Sabres coach Don Granato said Tuesday. “He’s been cleared. I’m comfortable with it. … Evident by the way he competes in practice, he’s ready to go.”
A four-time 20-goal scorer, Okposo answered a two-goal performance in 2020-21 with 21 goals and 45 points last season.
“My whole career hasn’t been in a straight line. And it very rarely is,” Okposo said, per the Buffalo News. “You have ups and downs and you deal with life and different situations on the ice, off the ice. To kind of have the year that I had last year and be pretty healthy and continue to come into this year and feel good and have some stability, it just feels great.”
Fellow forward Tage Thompson parlayed a career season in 2021-22, in which he led the team in goals (38) and points (68), into a seven-year contract extension worth $50 million.
The Sabres also handed out multi-year contract extensions to Granato and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson on the eve of the season.
While the Sabres did not divulge terms of the deal for Granato, they did announce Samuelsson’s extension as a seven-year pact worth $30 million. Samuelsson, 22, had 10 assists in 42 games last season.
Jeff Skinner answered a difficult campaign in 2020-21 to score 33 goals and set up 30 others, and former top overall pick Rasmus Dahlin totaled a team-leading 40 assists.
The Sabres recorded 75 points to finish in fifth place in the top-heavy Atlantic Division last season, two points ahead of Ottawa.
The new-look Senators acquired Ontario native Claude Giroux and two-time 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat in the offseason. The duo should aid in the continued development of Tim Stutzle, who received an eight-year, $66.8 million contract extension last month.
Senators coach D.J. Smith told the Ottawa Sun that the current line formations aren’t set in stone.
“You’re going to have to play lots of games to find out, but DeBrincat and Giroux, the way they’re playing on the power play, whether it’s Timmy or Josh (Norris) or (Shane) Pinto, they have chemistry. It’s up to the other guy to make it work with them.
“You have to get them the puck, have a bit of net presence in the (offensive) zone and take care of the defensive part of it. Whoever is the best for that will be the guy who plays with them.”
There also is question on the back end with Artem Zub’s availability for Thursday’s game. He is nursing a minor undisclosed injury.
Anton Forsberg will be tasked with keeping the Senators afloat while offseason acquisition Cam Talbot is on the shelf for five to seven weeks with a broken rib.
“My plan was to play well enough to get to play games, anyway,” Forsberg said, via the Ottawa Sun. “I want to play at the same level as I did last year and keep winning games. So, I would say that doesn’t really change anything for me.”
–Field Level Media