Sabres' stand­out could make sea­son de­but to­day

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By John Wawrow

Sabres cen­ter Jack Eichel said he's cleared ev­ery hur­dle in recovering from a sprained left an­kle, and coach Dan Bylsma said there's a pos­si­bil­ity the cen­ter will make his sea­son de­but at Ottawa to­day.

Sabres cen­ter Jack Eichel de­clared he’s cleared ev­ery hur­dle in recovering from a sprained left an­kle, and coach Dan Bylsma said there’s a pos­si­bil­ity the cen­ter will make his sea­son de­but at Ottawa on Tues­day.

“We’ll see,” Bylsma said Mon­day, giv­ing no guar­an­tees that Eichel will play against the Sen­a­tors. But Bylsma noted he was im­pressed by how the player per­formed dur­ing con­sec­u­tives days of rig­or­ous prac­tices.

“Jack looks good on the ice,” Bylsma said. “It was a big test for him yes­ter­day and see­ing how he came in to­day was a big step for whether we’re go­ing to see him to­mor­row.”

Eichel prac­ticed with his ex­pected line­mates, Evan­der Kane and Sam Rein­hart, and also as­sumed his fa­mil­iar role on the team’s top power-play unit.

The next test is see­ing whether Eichel ex­pe­ri­ences any set­backs overnight be­fore deter­min­ing whether he’ll play.

Eichel has been out since hurt­ing the an­kle dur­ing prac­tice on Oct. 12, a day be­fore Buf­falo’s sea­son opener against Mon­treal. He be­gan prac­tic­ing with the team last week and was sched­uled to board the Sabres flight for a road trip for the first time this sea­son.

“It’s a step in the right di­rec­tion just be­ing able to head out there and put my best foot for­ward, but who knows what will hap­pen to­mor­row night,” he said. “The pa­tience is start­ing to wear thin, but you’ve got to make sure you’re be­ing smart.”

Eichel, col­lege hockey’s top player dur­ing his fresh­man sea­son at Bos­ton Univer­sity, was se­lected with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft. He led the Sabres in scor­ing 24 goals and fin­ished sec­ond among NHL rook­ies with 56 points in 81 games,

Eichel’s pend­ing re­turn has the po­ten­tial of pro­vid­ing the Sabres a boost, par­tic­u­larly on a sput­ter­ing of­fense.

Buf­falo (7-9-5) has scored one or fewer goals in reg­u­la­tion 12 times this sea­son, in­clud­ing eight of its past 12 out­ings.

In­juries have played a fac­tor. Cen­ter Ryan O’Reilly re­turned last week af­ter missed five games with a strained oblique, while Evan­der Kane missed 11 games with bro­ken ribs.

Buf­falo is still play­ing with­out for­ward Tyler En­nis (sports her­nia) and de­fense­men Zach Bo­gosian (sprained knee) and Dmitry Ku­likov (lower back).

Eichel’s mere pres­ence in prac­tice pro­vided the Sabres a lift, with sev­eral team­mates no­tably tap­ping their sticks each time Eichel scored.

“I think you see that’s a lit­tle bit of re­lief for ev­ery­body,” Bylsma said.

Eichel is eager to come to the res­cue for a team that’s 2-1-1 in its past four since end­ing a 0-6-2 skid.

“Th­ese are my best bud­dies, th­ese are my team­mates. You’d like to go through ad­ver­sity with them and be able to play,” Eichel said.

“And not be­ing able to do that has been pretty rough.”

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