Center Ryan O’Reilly will not be with the Buffalo Sabres for their game Thursday night in Minnesota but this is not a simple veteran-gets-a-game-off scenario that you routinely see in the preseason. O’Reilly has another court date scheduled for Thursday in London, Ont., although it’s uncertain if he will attend or simply be represented by counsel.
O’Reilly, 24, was arrested on July 9 and charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident after crashing his vintage Chevrolet pickup truck into a Tim Hortons in Lucan, Ont. His two prior court dates have resulted in delays and O’Reilly said after practice Wednesday he has no idea if Thursday’s hearing will get a resolution in the case.
“It’s a long process. I don’t know. I’m sorry,” O’Reilly told reporters after practice Wednesday in First Niagara Center. “I don’t have enough information right now. My lawyer and I have a plan to talk so I can give you guys more information.”
O’Reilly has been openly contrite about the incident since the start of training camp, with both the organization and the media. He has declined to say much about the circumstances until the case is resolved.
On the ice, O’Reilly and Jack Eichel were Buffalo’s top two centers for the first time in the preseason during Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Toronto and O’Reilly said he’s been pleased at Buffalo’s offensive production; the Sabres are second in the NHL with 21 goals in exhibition play.
O’Reilly said it was particularly good to get an up-close view of Eichel.
“It was nice to actually see him play from the bench and be on the ice with him,” O’Reilly said. “His speed, his size, he creates so much out there. He’s going to be a phenomenal player. It was an exciting game, nice to see us put the puck in the net like that and keep it out of our own.”
Like everyone else in the building, O’Reilly was floored by the acceleration Eichel showed on the short-handed breakaway goal that opened the scoring.
“An amazing goal,” O’Reilly said. “He didn’t really have the guy beat and then it was just like two strides. It looked effortless for him. He made it look so easy out there. It was a brilliant goal. Using his speed and size like that, he’s going to create a lot for us.”
Coach Dan Bylsma was evasive when asked if Eichel would be in the lineup Thursday. Facing three games in four nights with the preseason finale here Friday against Columbus, Bylsma said the team struggled to put together a lineup for the Minnesota trip that included the minimum eight veterans. First-round draft picks like Eichel are considered a “veteran” by the NHL for preseason lineups.
Still, Bylsma said he did not want Eichel, or anyone else for that matter, playing three games in a row. That would seem to indicate Eichel would take Thursday off and play in the game here Friday.
“Game Seven will be very close to what we see on opening night,” Bylsma said, referring to the Columbus game and the season opener here Oct. 8 against Ottawa.
When the Sabres and Wild played Sept. 21 in Minnesota, Eichel’s short-handed breakaway goal in the third period was the difference in a 3-2 Buffalo win. Chad Johnson is expected to start in goal for the Sabres on Thursday; he started the first meeting before being relieved by Nathan Lieuwen.
Defenseman Brendan Guhle, felled by a Dion Phaneuf hit on Tuesday against Toronto, has an upper-body injury but Bylsma said he is not dealing with concussion issues. He did not practice Wednesday and is sitting out for now. Jake McCabe (upper body) returned to practice fully Wednesday and is likely to play in Minnesota as the Sabres have only six healthy defensemen.
Veteran winger Patrick Kaleta skated in a practice for the first time since the opening weekend of camp, taking the ice in a non-contact role after the main group and skating with several players ticketed for Rochester. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who has also been sidelined, was in that group.