CALGARY, Alberta -- Think back to the beginning of the season. Jack Eichel was setting up Evander Kane with regularity but Kane wasn't finishing. Now Eichel is in a bit of a lull and Kane has become the Sabres' heaviest forward up front.
The team is hoping a reunion of their two speed demons could help their sagging fortunes. The pair got back together in the third period Monday in Vancouver but those were Dan Bylsma's on-the-fly thoughts about a game that was just about lost.
At practice Wednesday in the Saddledome, that's how the lines were set up again and Bylsma confirmed he'll go with Eichel centering Kane and Brian Gionta for Thursday's game against the Calgary Flames.
"They had some success earlier in the season playing together," Bylsma said. "There wasn't a lot of finish in that success but they had opportunities and I think it's two guys that have a ton of speed and can really play off each other.
"There are times Jack has been the speed factor on his line. To have another element of speed next to him is good and I think Evander can feed off that as well."
Kane was working well with Ryan O'Reilly with three straight multi-point games. But in the first two games on the trip, he went pointless with a minus-3 rating. He was certainly active Monday in Vancouver, however, with 11 shot attempts and nine hits. Eichel is a little more of a puck carrier than O'Reilly, however, and Kane knows he has to adjust his game so0me.
"You have to find ways to get open when he has the puck and put yourself in a spot to receive it," Kane said. "Rather than support him, he likes to play a little more 1-on-1 and hold on to the puck. So when he has it, it's all about me getting open and vice versa."
Eichel has just two points in his last five games overall and also has just two in his last seven road games.
"It should be good," Eichel said of having Kane on his wing. "Hopefully we can utilize our speed and attack the other team. I don't know how many of us were really happy with our game in Vancouver. It's not the way we want to play as a team and I'm sure individuals aren't happy."
Jamie McGinn, on a career-high six-game scoring streak, heads to Kane's place on the top line with O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart. The lines went like this Thursday:
Bylsma would not reveal his goaltender for the game, although it almost certainly has to be Chad Johnson in the wake of Linus Ullmark's struggles. Jake McCabe's one-game exile to the press box is probably over as well. Bylsma wouldn't commit to using the young defenseman but pretty much let his cat out of the bag.
"Jake was fighting the puck and the situations he was in in Edmonton and needed to take a step back," Bylsma said. "But I also said after the game in Vancouver, 'Don't let me sit him out again. We need him back playing the way he can and being in the lineup.'"