Ryan O’Reilly skated for the first time in three weeks Friday. Not surprisingly, he stayed on the ice until they kicked him off.
The Sabres center has been sidelined since breaking his foot Feb. 19 in Columbus, so the rink rat had a lot of energy to use. He skated for more than 90 minutes in HarborCenter, a session that ended because the Carolina Hurricanes had reserved the rink for their practice.
“It was good,” O’Reilly said in First Niagara Center. “It’s always nice to get back on the ice. It feels like a lot longer than it has been once you get out there. It’s awkward kind of coming back, but it was a good workout today. Hopefully, I’ll continue to improve and get back soon.”
While there’s no timetable for O’Reilly’s return to a game, coach Dan Bylsma is hopeful the center can practice with the team Monday. Buffalo hosts Carolina on Saturday afternoon and will take Sunday off.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been hurt this long in my career,” O’Reilly said. “It’s definitely different coming back, having it this late in the season and trying to stay with it and get back. I’m just looking forward to getting back.
“It’s the first day. They want to review it and talk about it and go from there. Unfortunately, there’s no direct timeline now, but I’m hoping as soon as possible.”
Despite missing 10 games, O’Reilly remains the Sabres’ leading scorer with 49 points. The three members of the reconfigured top line – Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane – have passed O’Reilly’s goal total of 17.
“Watching these guys out there together, every shift they’re making stuff happen,” O’Reilly said. “It’s not easy to do in this league, especially for guys at their age. To have that responsibility and be effective, it’s only kind of the first taste we’re seeing of that, and it’s only going to get better.”
O’Reilly suffered his injury on a bad hop when he stopped a pass around the boards in the offensive zone.
“I just kind of turned my foot to take the puck, and I felt it hit weird,” he said. “I thought it was a stinger till after the game, and they looked at it and obviously unfortunate that I had to miss some time. It’s good. It feels a lot better now. I’m just excited to get back out there and get going.”
O’Reilly skated with defenseman Cody Franson, who suffered a head and neck injury the same night in Columbus.
“Cody has been skating a little bit Wednesday, skated yesterday and again today,” Bylsma said. “Hopefully, that means he can progress into next week.”