Ryan O'Reilly didn't skate with the Sabres on Monday but he's set to rejoin the club for its final two exhibition games, Wednesday night against Carolina in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Friday at Ottawa. Buffalo's center ice workhorse is in top shape after playing for Team Canada at the World Cup but now wants to resume his role as a minutes-cruncher in the NHL.
"It will be nice to get back out find a rhythm that way," O'Reilly said Monday in KeyBank Center. "And there's a couple new faces so it will be good to get on the ice with them. ... There are lessons you take. To get a taste of what it's like to win a championship is a great feeling and something we want to have soon in this room."
O'Reilly served as Canada's fourth-line center between Joe Thornton and Matt Duchene, and as one of its top penalty killers. But he played a combined 18 minutes, 49 seconds in the two games of the best-of-three final, less than most nights alone last year with the Sabres.
"The speed of the game over there was much quicker but it's different here," he said. "I'm going to play more minutes, a different role and get back into that kind of rhythm, having more feel and being more creative. You play such an intense tournament, you play a different way and more conservative. Don't make a mistake, give guys rest and penalty kill well. This is preparing for a long season."
The Sabres got a scare near the end of practice Monday as Kyle Okposo took a slapshot to the knee, skated around for a couple of minutes and then left the ice. He's now considered questionable for the next two games, beginning Tuesday night in Marquette, Mich., against Carolina.
"He's got quite a big bruise," said coach Dan Bylsma. "Just a slapshot to an area he didn't have any padding."
O'Reilly won't play Tuesday but Bylsma said Jack Eichel will make his preseason debut in the nationally televised Hockeyville USA game on NBC Sports Network. Zach Bogosian (groin) will not go on the trip and Dmitry Kulikov (back) is improving but also likely to stay home.