The puck went past Jack Eichel. He turned to get it, but his left skate didn’t.
With a loud scream, the Sabres star crumpled to the ice and writhed in pain with an ankle injury. His sound of agony Wednesday was the only noise in Buffalo’s arena as stunned teammates froze.
“Hopefully, it’s not too bad, but it sure didn’t look that good,” goaltender Anders Nilsson said. “You see he was in a lot of pain.”
Eichel’s ankle will be evaluated by doctors Wednesday afternoon, coach Dan Bylsma said in KeyBank Center.
“He has an ankle injury. At this point, not a lot to tell after that,” Bylsma said. “He goes down in a lot of pain, obviously. The initial shock of it is you see that, but we’re going to let it calm down here and get it evaluated and see the extent of him turning his ankle there.
“You’re looking at one of your key players, one of your best players going down in pain on the ice. It’s not a good thing.”
— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) October 12, 2016
Eichel rolled on the ice with a grimace on his face as players called for an athletic trainer. With the 19-year-old unable to put weight on his left leg, two teammates helped Eichel to the hallway toward the trainers’ room. The rest of the team encircled him, slowly gliding along with their star.
“Circumstances didn’t look good,” left wing Marcus Foligno said. “Of course, it’s Jack Eichel, so it’s tough. You never want to see that happen to anyone, but especially a player who means so much to your team.”
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) October 12, 2016
The Sabres were nearing the end of a power-play drill when Eichel went down. As the puck slid through the crease, the center lifted the stick of penalty killer Zemgus Girgensons and turned to get the puck.
“He was trying to get the puck, and we just got tangled up,” Girgensons said. “He just fell awkward. It’s always tough to see someone go down, especially a guy like Eichs. Let’s hope he’s all good.”
Ankle injuries are tricky for hockey players, who constantly need to turn and push off with power. Even a minor sprain could mean significant time lost for Eichel. The Sabres start the 2016-17 season Thursday when Montreal visits KeyBank Center.
“We’re not going to jump to conclusions what it is just yet,” Bylsma said. “This just feels a little bit different because it’s the cusp and the eve of starting a new season, one we’re all looking forward to. That’s really why it takes the wind out of the sails of the arena today.
“We’re eight minutes away from practice being over and getting ready for a game tomorrow. That happens, it kind of takes a little chunk out of the team in that situation.”
— Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) October 12, 2016
While the Sabres wait for full diagnosis, they’ll hope for the best.
“When you go down sometimes you’re worried about the way you went down, but it’s not that bad,” Foligno said. “I’ve been in that position with a knee. At first it doesn’t feel right, but you rehab and you come back quicker than you think. We’re hoping that’s the case with Jack.”