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Bylsma still hopeful of Ennis return; Eichel expected to play after illness

It’s been almost three months since Tyler Ennis played. Coach Dan Bylsma remains hopeful the forward will return before the Sabres’ season ends in three weeks.

Ennis, out with a concussion suffered Dec. 30, skated on his own and did an off-ice workout Monday in First Niagara Center.

“Tyler’s doing quite well, is improving,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “Worked out and skated this morning, so he’s doing better and better and the hopes of maybe moving in a positive direction in the next seven days.”

The Sabres have nine games remaining, starting with Tuesday’s visit to Carolina, so time is running short for Ennis to return. He has appeared in just 23 games and only four since Nov. 23 because of multiple concussions.

“I would love to see him on the ice with the team,” Bylsma said. “I would love to see him get healthy and play some games.”

Jack Eichel will make the trip to Carolina and is expected to play after missing Saturday’s game in Toronto because of illness. Eichel, who did not practice Monday, is recovering from either the flu or food poisoning.

“I don’t think it was the flu,” said Bylsma, who added the center was fine when he arrived in Toronto following Friday night’s home game. “He had something to eat at the hotel, and by 4 in the morning he was not doing very good. Got a quick bug. Other people ate the same thing Jack ate at the hotel when we got there, so I’m not quite sure it was food poisoning, but that’s what it looked like.”

Defenseman Cody Franson (concussion) and goaltenders Robin Lehner (ankle) and Jason Kasdorf (groin) also skipped practice. Lehner will not go to Carolina.

“Resting, recovering, rehabbing, working out off the ice in his spot right now,” Byslma said. “We just want to take it slow. You’re dealing with the continuing of the ankle sprain. He could tape it up and try to skate today and see how the tweak goes or see where it’s at, but really kind of taking a full rest and recovery for it.”

Franson hasn’t played since being boarded Feb. 19 in Columbus. He skated a few times but is not anymore.

“Franson’s off the ice and really kind of in a holding pattern for how he’s feeling,” Bylsma said.

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