Okposo carted off on stretcher in Isles' loss

New York Islanders' Kyle Okposo, right, is attended New York Islanders' Kyle Okposo, right, is attended to by a trainer after a hard hit from Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf during the second period of a preseason game. (September 17, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

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CALGARY, Alberta - In a sobering moment for the Islanders last night, forward Kyle Okposo was carted off the ice on a stretcher after he suffered an apparent head injury during the second period of the Islanders' 5-4 shootout loss to the Flames.

Okposo, who was leveled by a vicious open-ice hit by Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf, was motionless for several minutes as he was attended to by the team's medical staff. He eventually was lifted onto a stretcher and carted off the ice.

He was seen moving his hands and talking as he was put in an ambulance and taken to the hospital.

Okposo skated out of the Islanders' zone with the puck near the right boards. Then Phaneuf blindsided Okposo in the neutral zone; Phaneuf crossed over from his right defense position and knocked him to the ice as his shoulder connected with Okposo's head.

The hit, clearly questionable given that Okposo was in a defenseless position, incited a heated scuffle between the two teams and even prompted both goaltenders - Martin Biron and Miikka Kiprusoff - to skate to center ice.

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Islanders prospect Pascal Morency immediately jumped over the bench after the hit and tried to get to Phaneuf. Morency received a double-minor and a game misconduct.

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Phaneuf, who refused to drop the gloves, got two minutes for roughing. He didn't receive a penalty for the hit on Okposo. Biron and Kiprusoff received two minutes each for leaving the crease.

Several Islanders were upset that after hitting Okposo, Phaneuf refused to engage them.

"I don't know he's going to put a guy on the stretcher like that and not step up to the challenge," Blake Comeau said.

"From my point of view, it looks like he left his feet when he went to hit him," Biron said, "and did it in a way that the league is trying to prevent."

Biron added, "We have a long memory, and we'll see them Saturday in Saskatoon. If you're going to play that way, you have to respond when challenged."

While last night's incident was by far the most troubling this preseason, the Islanders already have been the victim of some bad luck on the injury front. Doug Weight and Sean Bergenheim suffered groin strains in Wednesday's preseason game against Edmonton and are listed as day-to-day. Frans Nielsen, who injured his right knee during practice Tuesday, has flown to New York to undergo an evaluation on the knee.

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