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Sabres' Kane, Eichel begin long road to recovery

Vehicle crash test videos are terrifying. Glass explodes. Steel crumbles. Dummies flail.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducts its new car assessment test at 35 mph. Dan Bylsma figures Evander Kane was traveling 25 mph when he crashed into the end boards Thursday night.

“It’s 25 mph going to a dead stop,” the Sabres coach said Friday. “If you don’t get any injuries, it’s still a huge collision into a completely stationary object.”

Kane, of course, did suffer injuries. The Buffalo left winger cracked three ribs, and he’ll be out of the lineup for weeks. The bones should take a month to heal.

“It’s not good news,” Bylsma said in KeyBank Center. “He goes into the end boards hard there. You’re hoping for a bruise, but it’s not. It’s cracked ribs and, again, it’s weeks depending on the severity.

“In the oblique area, it’s going to be something that you deal with even when you come back with rotation and the discomfort.”

While Kane was starting his recovery after being released from the hospital, fellow injured Sabres forward Jack Eichel was wheeling around the dressing room on his scooter. He put on a brave face regarding the high-ankle sprain that could sideline him for two months, but inside he was hurting.

“Obviously, my ankle doesn’t feel good, but I think the hardest part is definitely mentally,” Eichel said. “Just being here last night, it’s tough to watch the game. You want to be out there making a difference. You want to be out there with your teammates so badly. You miss it.”

Eichel has gone through a wide range of emotions since getting hurt on the eve of the season-opening loss to Montreal. He’ll have to rein in the feelings because he’ll be out for a while.

“I’ve never been through something like this,” the 19-year-old said. “More than anything it’s disappointing. You train all summer and you’re just so excited for the season to get going. Obviously, a bad bounce, a little setback, but it’s part of the game. It’s something you’ve got to deal with and deal with the right way. That’s what I’ve got to learn to do here.”

The Sabres are leaving town Saturday for a six-day trip through western Canada, but Eichel won’t be alone. His mother is coming from Massachusetts to help him deal with the setback.

“There’s a great supporting staff for me, and I’m just going to use it to the best of my ability and try to get back on the ice as soon as possible,” he said.

It would be a surprise to see Eichel in the lineup before Thanksgiving. High-ankle sprains are typically a six- to eight-week injury, though they can differ. Not knowing exactly when he’ll turn the corner will be tough.

“I’m not too patient,” Eichel said. “This is more of a wait game. You have to give it time. You really don’t want to rush into things because it’s an injury that can come back to you.

“It’s something that you want to take time and make sure you’re 100 percent.”

Eichel has talked with trainers, teammates and friends about the recovery process. He’ll wear a walking boot on his left foot for 10 days. There’s no timetable after that.

“There will be days where you feel great and you feel like you can walk on it,” he said. “You feel like you can put your skate on and go out there, but that’s not the case. It’s just to make sure you’re patient and go on your own timetable.”

Eichel, whose scream of agony brought the arena to a halt Wednesday, knew immediately his injury was significant.

“Just feeling my body fall on top of my ankle and not go the way it should, it’s a bad bounce,” he said. “But hockey’s a physical game and injuries are part of it. More than anything it’s how you handle it and how you return.”

The center is aware Buffalo fans feel the sky is falling on the team. In addition to the major injuries to Eichel and Kane, key players Kyle Okposo, Dmitry Kulikov and Ryan O’Reilly have missed time. Eichel is confident his healthy teammates will be fine without them.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” Eichel said. “We can’t get dwell on guys that are out or injuries. The guys in the room aren’t doing that, and the coaching staff sure isn’t doing that.

“I know these guys will take care of business while we get healthy. I’m just excited to get the process going, and I look forward to when I get the chance to come back.”

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