No one came right out and said Jack Eichel will play in the Sabres’ next game, but there were so many positive clues that it’s hard to imagine he won’t.
After practicing fully Monday, Eichel gave several sly grins regarding his playing status Tuesday in Ottawa. He will make the trip with his teammates, and as long as there’s no setback, he will be on the ice in Canadian Tire Centre.
“There’s no real restrictions, so I feel pretty good right now,” said Eichel, who was asked about any hurdles still in his way. “I’ve cleared them all.”
It’s been six weeks and five days since Eichel suffered a high-ankle sprain, and the ailment was expected to keep him out 6-8 weeks. He’s right on target after having a battle-heavy practice Sunday.
“He responded well to it,” coach Dan Bylsma said in KeyBank Center. “He came back this morning feeling good about it. Today, I think he looks real good. His skating’s good. He’s beating guys, stepping off guys, creating room and separation.
“He looks good to me.”
He looked good to his teammates, too. Eichel practiced on the top power-play unit and centered left wing Evander Kane and right wing Sam Reinhart. He scored with both groups and during a shootout drill.
“I just think you see a little bit of relief for everybody,” Bylsma said.
The Sabres aren’t bringing any extra forwards to Ottawa, so they would need to call up someone if Eichel can’t dress. It doesn’t seem to be the plan.
“I’m holding my cards close,” Eichel said. “This is the toughest part, right? I mean, you’ve sat out for as long as you have. Now that you’re getting this close to it, you feel like you can go any day now. The patience is starting to wear thin, but you’ve got to make sure you’re being smart.
“You like to look at the fact that you haven’t played at all so you should be fresh. Sometimes you can hit dog days of the year. After missing 20 or so games this year, that’s kind of away. You just want to get back to playing. That’s what you trained for all summer. You prepared for it, and it’s tough that the season starts a little bit later for me.
“I’m just excited for it.”