BOSTON -- One advantage of being at home for Christmas this year was that Jack Eichel didn't need to be up early for the Sabres' 8 a.m. flight here. He was already close by in North Chelmsford, Mass.
"I didn't have to fly in this morning. I just drove a half hour. It was nice," a smiling Eichel said today while talking to more than two dozen reporters after the Sabres' morning skate in TD Garden. "It was a little bit relaxing and I've seen a lot of people already.
"It was great getting to go home and see a lot of family and friends. It was my first Christmas in Chelmsford in a few years after playing in the World Juniors. It's nice to wake up in your own house on Christmas and be with your family and see a lot of people you haven't seen in a while."
Coach Dan Bylsma said Eichel will likely start the game against the Boston Bruins, his first NHL contest at home. Bylsma said he will watch his 19-year-old rookie closely, perhaps riding him more than usual if he's particularly hot or pulling back some if he's trying to do too much.
"You kind of keep an eye on the situation," Bylsma said. "Maybe being back in front of the hometown and his first time back here in Boston, it might be one where we do ride him."
Eichel played several key games in the building last year for Boston University but tonight's game will be special because it's his NHL debut here. His parents have rented a couple of suites to house the family and friends who are coming.
Eichel recalled his first game here came on his 4th birthday, an overtime loss to the Leafs on a Mats Sundin goal in 2000.
"That was a bad memory but I've had a lot of good ones too," he said of the Garden, where his BU team won last year's Beanpot and Hockey East tournaments and played in the NCAA Frozen Four.
"I got tickets for my dad for his birthday one year. We came to a Bruins-Canadiens game. It was a game with all those fights, 10 guys left on each bench. I remember being here for that game and it was crazy. A lot of good memories. Obviously we had a lot of good ones last year. ... This building has been pretty good to me."
As he has for the last few games, Eichel will skate between Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis. Kane drew some laughs as he walked by Eichel's large media scrum down the hall from the Sabres' dressing room by whipping out his iPhone and announcing, "This is going on my Snapchat."
Eichel declined comment when asked by a Boston reporter about the gambling probe that went public at Boston University this week surrounding the hockey team. It resulted in the suspension for the season of former teammate Nick Ruberto; the school told the Buffalo News that Eichel is currently not part of the investigation.
"All of those guys are my family," Eichel said. "I don't feel it's really right for me to address the situation."
Bylsma said former Bruins backup Chad Johnson would start in goal for the Sabres tonight. He'll be going against Boston backup Jonas Gustavsson, as the Bruins play tomorrow night in Ottawa and will likely use starter Tuukka Rask in that one.
Winger Matt Moulson, without a goal for 22 games, was working in and out of the fourth line and could be a healthy scratch. It may be based on whether Marcus Foligno, who has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, is ready to go. Foligno stayed late for some extra work.
"Matt needs to get back to playing the way he can," Bylsma said. "It's a big part of our team for him to be able to do that. He can add in that area. Right now he's off his game in that regard. ... We need him to get back to that level for us to be successful."