June 12, 2024

Kyle Okposo reacquainted himself with playoff hockey with the Florida Panthers, making a significant impact in his first postseason game since 2016. He contributed an assist and created a crucial screen leading to a goal that propelled the team to a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 on Thursday night.

“It’s just great to experience that feeling again,” Okposo expressed. “The playoffs hold a special significance, and you truly appreciate it when you’ve been away from it for a while.”

Florida Panthers Score Team-Record 7 Goals in 1st – NBC 6 South Florida

“When you’ve been out of it for eight years, you’re just sitting there, watching, and longing to be a part of it again, yearning to experience that feeling once more. I woke up this morning pretty early and ready to go.”

Aaron Ekblad and Sasha Barkov both recall facing Okposo the last time his team reached the playoffs in 2016.

Okposo’s New York Islanders eliminated the Panthers in six games in the first round.

“He was one of those players you didn’t want to go up against,” Barkov recalled. “The Islanders had a really strong team back then, and he was one of their key players. I’m really excited for him. Can’t wait to see him out on the ice. He brings that leadership to our group. Just having him here is a big addition for us. We’re fortunate to have him with us.”

After serving as a key player and leader on several unsuccessful Buffalo Sabres teams, Okposo finally got the opportunity he sought when the Panthers traded for him at this year’s trade deadline.

At 36, Okposo expressed his desire to win and informed the Sabres that he only wanted to be traded to the Panthers.

“I’m here to win, and I’m here to go on a ride with these guys,” Okposo stated. “Since the day I arrived, they’ve been incredibly welcoming to me. It’s been inspiring to witness how hard they work and how determined they are. It brought back those feelings for me, and it’s a special sensation. I’m here to do whatever I can to help the team succeed.”

Several of Okposo’s former Buffalo teammates are now with the Panthers, and they were thrilled when they learned of his arrival.

“At the deadline, when we acquired him, I was excited,” Brandon Montour recalled. “From my time with him in Buffalo, I know the leadership and experience he brings. Despite the challenges he faced in Buffalo with no playoff experience, whether he’s in the lineup or not, it’s a given that he’ll have a great game.”

“That excitement continued when he got in the lineup and made an impact on the ice. After he got his assist, everyone celebrated emphatically and gave him his props. They knew what it took for him to reach this point and knew how much he deserved to be there.

“He’s always been an extremely hardworking guy,” Ekblad said. “He was the team captain there in Buffalo but didn’t see much success. He’s a true professional on and off the ice and a good person.”

Even though Okposo didn’t initially crack the lineup in Game 1, he remained prepared to contribute in whatever capacity was needed.

“I’ve worn a lot of different hats in my career,” Okposo noted. “I’ve been on the first line, fifth line, healthy scratched, playing 25 minutes. I’ve kind of done a lot of different things, and I’ve tried to handle them with as much respect as I can. If it calls for me not playing a game, if I can provide a little bit of insight into a game by watching it and telling somebody something that hopefully helps them on the ice, that’s what I’m going to do. If I’m going to go in and play, I’m going to play to the best of my abilities and be ready to play. So I’ve completely accepted my role, and I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities.”

Kyle Okposo: ‘Fun to Have that Feeling Again’ with Florida Panthers

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