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Ryan O'Reilly close to returning to the Sabres lineup

It was at least half an hour, maybe a bit more, before Ryan O'Reilly came into the Buffalo Sabres locker room. The center did extra skating. And a little more extra skating. And just a few more minutes of extra work.

By the time he headed into the room his teammates were already packed and gone.

Monday morning was the first time O'Reilly had been on the ice with his teammates since injuring his oblique on Nov. 12. He participated in the pre-game skate as the Sabres prepared to host the Calgary Flames at 7 p.m. in KeyBank Center, although he was not going to be in the lineup.

Of course, O'Reilly was ready and willing. He was on Saturday when the Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was on Monday as well. But he decided heeding the advice of the medical staff, giving his body two more days of rest, would ultimately be the best long-term for both himself and the team.

It is, after all, only November with four months of regular season games left.

"It’s tough. This month has been a pretty hectic month when every other day we’re playing," O'Reilly said Monday morning. "As much as I want to come back, I’ve got to be smart here. It’s a long season. You’ve just got to be patient.

"I think if we’re in playoffs, it’s a different situation. There’s a lot of hockey left. Obviously it’s frustrating right now. We’re not where we want to be these last few games. We need to score goals and that’s one of my jobs and not being able to do it is frustrating but we’ve got a good staff here; I’ve got to trust them and be smart with it."

The oblique injury impacts every facet of being on the ice, although O'Reilly noted he didn't feel any particular aggravation on faceoffs, one of many key areas he excels in for the Sabres.

Despite missing the last four games, O'Reilly ranks second among NHL forwards with an average ice time of 21 minutes, 46 seconds per game. He ranked eighth in the NHL in faceoffs won (187) and third in win percentage (60.5 percent) among players with at least 100 faceoffs.

"Ryan’s a lot of things to our team in a lot of areas and not just scoring but virtually every spot on the ice he’s a big part of," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "He’s a big part of what drives our team. We’ll get him back later in the week."

O'Reilly said Wednesday's matchup with Detroit in KeyBank Center is "very doable and that’s what I’m planning for."

In the meantime, he gets another opportunity to watch his older brother suit up for the Sabres. It was a proud brother moment for O'Reilly on Saturday when he watched as Cal O'Reilly scored the winning goal in the shootout over the Penguins.

"I was hoping he was going to go," Ryan said of Cal. "Since watching him play growing up, he’s always been excellent in the shootout. I learned a lot of things from him. To see him go there, I was confident he was going to bury it."

Cal's shot is "a tough one," Ryan said. "He stick handles so much going down the ice, gets a feel then just the way he starts that move, it’s so tough. Goalies have no idea where it’s going."

 

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