Ryan O’Reilly waited three weeks to skate, the longest stretch of inactivity he can remember in his NHL career. Once he got on the ice, he wasn’t leaving until they kicked him off.
The Sabres center skated Friday for the first time since breaking his foot Feb. 19. He and injured defenseman Cody Franson carved up the auxiliary rink in HarborCenter for more than 90 minutes, ending their session only because the Carolina Hurricanes had reserved the ice.
“It’s always nice to get back on the ice,” O’Reilly said. “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. Hopefully, I’ll continue to improve and get back soon.”
O’Reilly will miss his 11th straight game Saturday afternoon when the Sabres host the Hurricanes in First Niagara Center, but coach Dan Bylsma hopes the center can join the team’s practices Monday and Tuesday.
“They want to review it and talk about it and go from there,” O’Reilly said. “Unfortunately, there’s no direct timeline now, but I’m hoping as soon as possible.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been hurt this long in my career. It’s definitely different coming back.”
O’Reilly suffered his injury when he stopped a pass around the boards in the offensive zone in Columbus.
“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.”
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.”
Franson, who suffered a head and neck injury on the same day O’Reilly got hurt, has skated for three straight days.
“Hopefully, that means he can progress into next week,” Bylsma said.
Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban suffered a “non-serious neck injury” during Thursday’s game against the Sabres and was released from the hospital after comprehensive testing, the Canadiens announced. Subban was put on a stretcher and transported to the hospital for precautionary reasons after being injured by teammate Alexei Emelin in the closing minutes of the Habs’ 3-2 victory over Buffalo in Bell Centre.
“Feeling good and feeling the love. Thanks for all the support!” Subban wrote on his Twitter account.
Subban will sit out Saturday’s game against Minnesota. The sixth-year veteran has never missed a game because of injury.
Fans from the Southtowns who are attending the 1 p.m. game between the Sabres and Hurricanes will need to avoid Ohio Street. The road will be closed prior to puck drop because of the Shamrock Run.
The Hurricanes were supposed to fold after trading captain Eric Staal to the New York Rangers at the deadline. Instead, they’ve gone 3-1-1 to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They were three points out of a wild-card spot entering Friday night’s schedule.
“They’ve been able to scratch and claw here the last few games to win some hockey games,” Bylsma said. “They’re fighting for their playoff lives every night, and they’ve shown that.”