Jack Eichel knew there would be days his ankle would affect him. The first flare-up won’t keep him out of Buffalo’s lineup.
Eichel will play Tuesday night when Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers visit KeyBank Center. The center was slowed Monday night by the high-ankle sprain that kept him out for seven weeks, but the ailment isn’t severe enough for him to sit again.
“I’m fine. I’m good,” Eichel said Tuesday morning after a team meeting. “Going through an injury like this, you know it’s going to come back and bother you at times, but it’s fine now.”
Washington’s Dmitry Orlov hit Eichel into the boards Monday during the Sabres’ 3-2 overtime loss, and Eichel clearly had issues for the rest of the game.
“It’s been a very good situation for him with his ankle,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “Usually, you tweak it occasionally. You tweak it a few times a game. He’s played four games and had the one incident in the game against Washington.
“That’s really the only time he’s felt it, which is pretty remarkable considering the injury and coming back from it.”
Eichel’s availability allows him to face McDavid, his 2015 draft mate, for just the second time. McDavid scored twice, including the overtime winner, in March in Buffalo.
“You guys are obviously going to make it look like it’s Eichel-McDavid, that whole thing,” Eichel said, “but it’s a team game. It’s always been a team game.”
Bylsma, who had a front-row seat for the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin rivalry as coach of Pittsburgh, understands the fascination.
“They’re forever going to be tied together,” Bylsma said. “There’s certainly some anticipation about them playing against each other.”