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Eichel's return ready for Buffalo

To be honest, Jack Eichel said, his ankle felt fantastic.

Perhaps adrenaline had something to do with it as Eichel made his season debut Tuesday night in Ottawa after missing the first 21 games with a high-ankle sprain.

But Wednesday he still felt good and was looking forward to making his debut in KeyBank Center when the Buffalo Sabres host the New York Rangers Thursday night.

"Yesterday's game was the best it's felt since I got hurt," Eichel said Wednesday as the Sabres had a team meeting and optional skate.

He could not have scripted his return any better. Eichel scored and assisted in the first period as the Sabres went on for a 5-4 win.

"You want to be out there and obviously help contribute and feel comfortable," Eichel said. "I think," in that first 10 minutes was "a lot of adrenaline and energy and pretty anxious to get going. You almost forget about your ankle. It was nice the first couple of shifts able to touch the puck and get yourself in the game, get hit a couple of times. I think those are the best ways to find yourself comfortable in a game when you haven’t played in a while. Especially to be able to get a couple of points in the first period, I think you’re able to build a lot of confidence and put any doubt away."

While Eichel makes his Buffalo debut on Thursday, so does New York Rangers' winger Jimmy Vesey.

Both Eichel and Vesey are Boston natives. While Eichel played one year at Boston University, Vesey played four at Harvard.

Vesey was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 2012 third round. But he never signed wasn’t interested in playing in Nashville. So the Predators traded his rights to the Sabres for a third-round pick. But again, Vesey never signed, choosing instead to become a free agent, signing with the Rangers over the summer.

So while Eichel will be cheered by fans in Buffalo, there's a possibility Vesey will be greeted with boos.

"I mean, I’m not really sure why," Eichel said. "He was free agent. It’s his own decision to make a decision where he wants to play. If any of us were in his situation I’m sure a lot would go into a decision like that. Obviously would have loved to have him in Buffalo but he made a decision and obviously he’s happy with that one. Can’t blame a guy for that."

Vesey ranks sixth in the NHL in rookie scoring with 14 points (eight goals, six assists). He scored the game-winning power-play goal on Tuesday as the Rangers rallied to beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, in Madison Square Garden.

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