OTTAWA – Jack is back.
Sabres star Jack Eichel confirmed he will be in the lineup Tuesday night when Buffalo visits Ottawa. The center has missed 21 games with a high-ankle sprain. He’ll feel the effects of the injury for some time, but it’s reached the point where he can play without worry.
“You can notice it all times, to be honest, but it’s not something that bothers you,” Eichel said in Canadian Tire Centre. “You just notice it. It’s not something that restricts you from doing anything, but you know it’s there.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and even the doctors have said it will slowly start to fade away, but that’s not just going to happen within this first seven weeks or so. It’s going to be a lot longer than that. It’s just something that mentally you learn to deal with.”
Eichel’s speed is his biggest asset, and he’s looked good in practice. He knows games are different, and he’s looking forward to facing the Senators.
“You just don’t want any restrictions,” he said. “You want to be out there playing your game for the most part and not worry about it. That’s the point that I wanted to get to, and that’s where I am now, so that’s why I’m going to play.”
Eichel will center for left wing Evander Kane and right wing Sam Reinhart, a trio that had success together last season.
“I’m just excited to get back on the ice with them,” Eichel said. “That’s obviously the hardest part is not being able to play. You work all summer to try and hit the ground running, and you’re excited about a season. It’s your second year and you’re looking forward to it. Obviously, you’re postponed a little bit, but that happens.
“Hockey’s a contact game with a lot of injuries, so just credit all the staff here with the Sabres and everyone that’s helped me get healthy quick. I just look forward to returning tonight and trying to make an impact on the team.”
Smile has been on Jack Eichel's face a lot this morning. pic.twitter.com/XRT6Ddrkgu
— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) November 29, 2016
Eichel will play a regular shift and skate on the top power-play unit, but coach Dan Bylsma doesn't want to overwork the center in his return.
"It’s an injury that Jack’s probably going to feel for the next two weeks, four weeks, month, month and a half, two months, however long it is," Bylsma said. "It’s not going to feel 100 percent. He’s got to understand that. We’ve got to understand that.
"I hope it’s not going to be 23 minutes of ice time tonight. It’s going to be gradual, step back into his role on our team, his spot on our team."