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As Eichel goes down, teammates step up in Sabres road win

BOSTON – When Jack Eichel went down, the rest of the team stepped up.

There were the usual goal scorers – a beauty breakaway from Evander Kane, set up by Sam Reinhart.

There were the unusual suspects, like Scott Wilson who had a goal and an assist for just his third career multi-point game.

It wasn't anything special or flashy, but when their star player went down, the Sabres responded the right way and came out of the TD Garden with a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday.

"I thought everybody stepped their game up when Jack went down," Sabres coach Phil Housley said.

So first, let's start with the bad news: With 6:52 left in the first period, Eichel went behind the net to play the puck, but his right leg folded awkwardly underneath him as Matt Grzelcyk closed in. Eichel could not put weight on his right leg as he skated off into the dressing room.

"He got tangled up in the corner but we'll know more tomorrow when he sees our doctor," Housley said. After the game, the Sabres did not discuss the nature or extent of the injury or potential timeline for Eichel. A source told The Buffalo News that Eichel is expected to have an MRI on Sunday.

But then the good news: The Sabres responded with a strong game, grinding out a win against a Boston Bruins team that had won its last four games.

The franchise player may have gone down, but the Sabres kept their heads in the game.

"It's tough losing Jack," Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson said. "He's our best player and franchise player so it's tough, but we're all professionals. We all understand the situation. Guys get injured or hurt so guys have to step up and play more minutes and they stepped up and did that so it was good."

"Everyone sees it right away," said Reinhart. "It's unfortunate. The first thing you do is hope he's okay because he makes this team go, really. I really liked how everyone kind of stepped up and didn't try to do anything special. Everyone played their own game and that's what we needed from everybody.

"We're not asking someone to have two or three goals or block 10 shots. It's a little bit from everybody. That's what you saw tonight."

The wraparound: Sabres 4, Bruins 2; Jack Eichel injured

The Sabres got a little bit extra from an unlikely source. Wilson was back in the lineup Saturday after being a healthy scratch in the Sabres last game. He went into the lineup for Zemgus Girgensons, who was out with an illness. Wilson scored his third goal of the season to give the Sabres a 2-0 second-period lead. He then set up Benoit Pouliot on a break late in the second as the Sabres took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

"With Eichs going down, it's not a good feeling but we had a bunch of guys step up today and play a few minutes and just grind it out," Wilson said. "When you lose your big guy everybody knows that a couple more minutes are coming your way and you're just going to have to dig down that much more. I thought we did a good job of staying together and getting it done."

Wilson used his extra minutes wisely, not only with the offense but with his checking – something which in particular pleased Housley after the game.

"I love the way he uses his speed and he finishes his checks," Housley said. "His attention to detail in the game is really good and it's good to see some guys get rewarded that haven't been rewarded in a while."

The Sabres got a little bit of help from everyone. Kane ended a 14-game streak without a goal when he buried a breakway, set up by Reinhart, in the second period for the first goal.

Pouliot's goal was his first since Jan. 11 while Johnson was stellar in goal, turning aside 27 shots.

There could be plenty more opportunities like that, depending upon the injury to Eichel.

He left the game without putting pressure on his right leg. It was his left ankle which he injured at the start of last season, suffering a high ankle sprain in practice the day before the season opener. That caused Eichel to miss the first 21 games, returning to the lineup on  Nov. 29.

This season, a healthy Eichel from the start of the season had been on pace to shatter personal bests in goals, assists and points. He particularly found an offensive groove as of late. In 29 games since the beginning of December, Eichel had totaled 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists), ranking in the top 10 in the NHL during that stretch. He entered the weekend tied for 11th in the league with four multi-goal games this season.

 

 

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