Kyle Okposo went home from the Buffalo Sabres' game against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 16 unsure if he would suit up in the NHL again.
Okposo sustained a concussion that night as the result of a collision with Senators defenseman Ron Hainsey, a feeling he's become all too familiar with over the past four seasons. Emotional, he contemplated what might be next.
He had come a long way from that feeling by the time he spoke in the Buffalo dressing room Monday, smiling after skating with teammates for the first time since the incident.
"It's something that you think a lot about, post-career," Okposo said. "That's the first thing that kind of pops into my head, as I'm sure it did with a lot of other people who know my history. When these things happen repeatedly, I just want answers, I just to make sure I'm going to be OK later.
"I don't have a crystal ball and nobody else has a crystal ball either, but I saw the right people and I got the information that I needed to hear to continue to play. I'm excited to be back and I'm happy to be back out there and feeling fresh and feeling 100 percent."
While the skate was a sign of progress, Sabres coach Ralph Krueger stressed that Okposo still needs time before returning to game action.
"Okie has been a very important person to mentor our younger players and to be an example, more than anything, of what it takes to be competitive every day," Krueger said. "So, it was great to see him."
"We still don't expect him back here for a while. This is a process we need to be careful with. It was good to see him skating with us but he's, for us, still a ways away from any type of contact."
Late during the 2016-17 season, Okposo sustained a concussion that forced him to spend time in the neurological intensive care unit at Buffalo General. His most recent concussion occurred in February of last season, the product of a fight with New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo.
So, when Okposo collided with Hainsey earlier this month, he quickly knew something was wrong. The hit was accidental; Okposo was coming onto the ice as Hainsey skated through the neutral zone. The presence of the linesman prevented the two from seeing each other, and Okposo caught the brunt of it.
Immediately, he knew his head and neck felt wrong.
"When you're kind of waiting, this response was different," he said. "The emotions were different, the feelings were different. I think that's the thing about concussions, is they're never really the same. So, just waiting for it to subside obviously makes you contemplate a lot of different things.
"I was happy to, once I did turn the corner, really improve quickly and I was able to get over the hump."
Conversations in the meantime convinced Okposo it would be safe to play again. Asked when he might return to the lineup, he smirked.
"I don't know," he said. "I would love to play tonight, but I don't think that's going to happen."
Rather, patience will be key. Okposo said this latest experience was an affirmation of how many people care about his well-being moving forward, and the Sabres plan to proceed with caution.
"The outpouring of support that I got was really special," Okposo said. "To know that people care and want to see me healthy was a special thing."