RALEIGH, N.C. — Kyle Okposo is a Sabre now, but his NHL roots still are deepest with the Islanders, for whom he played parts of nine seasons before leaving for Buffalo last summer.

So the news that he is in a Buffalo hospital with an undisclosed illness hit the Islanders hard.

“It’s tough,” Cal Clutterbuck said before Thursday night’s game against the Hurricanes. “I don’t know much more about it than anybody else. Obviously, the concern is just with him and his family. It’s a tough time. He’s got two young kids [ages 1 and 3] and a wife who’s obviously really concerned, as we all are.

“I think he’s in good hands and I think he’s going to be OK. You just keep thinking about him while he is going through it.”

The Buffalo News reported that as of Wednesday, Okposo was in the Neuro Surgical ICU at Buffalo General Hospital. He has been out of action since March 28.

“We’re praying for him,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “He’s a wonderful person. Certainly, this is a little more important than hockey . . . All you can do is shoot him a text and let his wife and him know that we’re thinking about him.

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“He spent a lot of time here and we got to know him really well, not [only] as a player, but as a person. He’s a good man, and we wish him the best.”

Kulemin not ready to play yet

The Islanders had hoped to get Nikolay Kulemin back on the ice Thursday night, but Weight said Kulemin was not ready to go after practicing with the team on Wednesday.

Instead, Weight again planned to dress seven defensemen — technically — with Thomas Hickey set to serve as an emergency left wing because five forwards are out injured.

Hickey played the position for the first time as a pro on Tuesday, a game he won with a goal in overtime against the Predators.

Jaroslav Halak is set for his fourth start in a row in goal after winning the previous three.

Isles prepare for strategic playoff scenarios

The Islanders on Wednesday practiced creative strategic possibilities should their dire playoff situation call for it as events unfold elsewhere Thursday night.

For example: Under certain circumstances, an overtime victory might be needed because tiebreakers do not credit wins in shootouts.

So would pulling the goalie in overtime be an emergency move to ponder?

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“I’ve included everything,” Weight said.

But he wants the coaches and staff, not the players, to think such thoughts.

“I’m not going to get it in guys’ heads,” he said. “It’s not going to be a theorem or a geometrical trig and secant and everything else. It’s going to be pretty cut and dried.”

Still, he wanted to do the relevant drills in advance so “it’s not just thrown at them like a ham sandwich,” Weight said. “They’re prepared for it.”

’Canes just want a win

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Thursday is the Islanders’ third trip to PNC Arena this season in an eventful series, with the Hurricanes winning games 7-4, 5-4 (in OT) and 8-4 and the Islanders winning, 3-2 (in OT).

The Canes stormed into playoff contention with a 9-0-4 surge in March, but they entered the game against the Islanders with a three-game losing streak and no postseason hopes.

“We just need to get a win,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said before the game. “We haven’t won in a while there. Let’s see what that feels like once in a while.”

Peters was to start Eddie Lack over Cam Ward in goal, saying Ward was taking “a little maintenance day.”

Ladd’s fond Carolina memories

The Islanders are Andrew Ladd’s fifth NHL team. His first was Carolina, which drafted him in 2004 and for which he won a Stanley Cup in 2006.

“Every time you step on the ice and you see that banner up there it brings back a lot of really good memories,” he said.

Weight was a player on that Hurricanes team, too.