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Kyle Okposo Meets His Former Sabres Teammates Today with Panthers

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Buffalo Sabres captain Kyle Okposo lines up for a faceoff on Dec. 9. After eight seasons in Buffalo, Okposo was traded to the Panthers on March 8. He faces them for the first time today in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

FORT LAUDERDALEKyle Okposo had only played for two NHL teams before being traded to the Florida Panthers in March.

On Dec. 23, 2016, Okposo returned to Brooklyn with the Buffalo Sabres, the team he signed with as a free agent after leaving the New York Islanders during the previous offseason.

That was the one and only time he played against his former team.

Until today.

The Panthers will welcome the Buffalo Sabres to Sunrise this evening and it will be Okposo’s first chance to play against the team he was a big part of for the past eight seasons.

Before being traded to the Panthers at the trade deadline, the 35-year-old was captain of the Sabres.

Today, he is the opponent.

“It is going to be different,” Okposo said after practice on Friday. “I have experienced it once in my career already, so I can kind of draw on that a little bit. I put a lot of time and energy into that team, into those guys and that organization. I am just going to try and enjoy it. It’s obviously going to be weird. I am close friends with a lot of those guys. So, I’ll just try and play, not look over there too much in warm ups. It’s going to be a fun night.”

Things did not go as Okposo and the Sabres hoped when he signed a seven-year deal worth $42 million in 2016.

With the Islanders, Okposo helped New York make it to the Eastern Conference semifinals by knocking off the Panthers in six games.

But, that was the last time he had been to the playoffs.

Again, until now.

One of the reasons why Okposo became available this season was because he wanted the opportunity to experience playoff hockey again — and wanted to try and with the Stanley Cup with Florida.

Buffalo has not been to the playoffs since 2011 — a 13-year drought which is the longest in NHL history and is tied with the New York Jets for the longest active streak in major North American pro sports.

The Panthers could open the playoffs as early as next Saturday night.

But first, Okposo has to get past playing all of his friends from Buffalo.

“When you’re so integrated in their systems and how they play, you find yourself watching the other team and thinking about the stuff they’re supposed to be doing and not what you’re supposed to be doing,’’ Okposo said.

“Hopefully I can just go out there and play.”

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

ON DECK

BUFFALO SABRES @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports SUN/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 2-0) — At Buffalo: Panthers 4, Sabres 0 (Feb. 15). At Florida: Panthers 3, Sabres 2 (Feb. 28); Saturday.
  • Last Season: Florida won 3-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 56-45-8, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers — Regular-Season Finale: Tuesday vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.

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