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Sabres' Eichel, Ristolainen won't play in world championships; O'Reilly, Girgensons will

It’s time for Jack Eichel to shut it down.

After a whirlwind year that including playing for a college championship, winning the Hobey Baker Award, representing the United States at the world championships, sharing the spotlight with Connor McDavid during the NHL Draft process, headlining the Sabres’ development camp and completing an 81-game rookie season, Eichel is putting the skates away for a while.

That means he won’t play for USA Hockey at next month’s world championships.

“I think it’s time for me to take a little break and unwind a little bit here, kind of take a deep breath for the first time in a while,” Eichel said Sunday as the Sabres wrapped up the season with individual meetings. “It’s important mentally, physically, emotionally to take some time, be with your family, collect yourself, put the hockey bag away, stay out of the gym. Just relax a little bit, rejuvenate your mind, rejuvenate your body and prepare for your offseason training the right way where you can get the maximum results to help you come back next season feeling better than ever and hopefully take that next step.”

Eichel will play again before the Sabres start the 2015-16 season. He’ll represent Team North America at the World Cup in the fall.

“World Cup training camp starts in September,” he said. “It’s a pretty long offseason for me. I think it’ll be important for me to plan the whole thing and be able to amp it up at the right time to prepare myself for the World Cup.”

Eichel was one of the United States’ stars at last year’s world championships. Buffalo teammate Ryan O’Reilly helped Canada win the gold medal, and he’s going for a repeat.

“I’ll be going over to Russia to play,” O’Reilly said in First Niagara Center. “It’ll be great. Last year was an awesome experience to win. Going back again, it’s always a great time. Team Canada is great with it. They put on a great experience for us.”

While O’Reilly is focused on the world championship, he knows a good showing can put him in consideration for Canada’s World Cup team.

“You want to win again,” he said. “You want to prove you’re the best country and go from there. For myself, obviously, that has crossed my mind if I can play well there and give myself a better chance to play on the World Cup team, it’d be great. At the same time, in order to do that you’ve got to focus on going over there and winning.”

Zemgus Girgensons will play for Latvia in the worlds, which begin May 6 in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Rasmus Ristolainen will not play for Finland because the restricted free agent does not have a contract. USA Hockey has contacted Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Hudson Fasching.

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