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Sabres' Eichel making a difference off the ice, too

SUNRISE, Fla. – Jack Eichel’s on-ice attributes are so noticeable that his other traits are often overlooked. Those are helping the Sabres, too.

Eichel’s competitive spirit is undeniable. He takes losses hard, particularly when he didn’t make a difference. After a couple of recent games, including Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss in Carolina, he stewed at his locker stall well after the other players had left. His anger was obvious.

He wants his Buffalo teammates to hate losing just as much.

“It’s important for everyone here to have the same mindset of one point is not good enough,” Eichel said in BB&T Center. “We need to get two points every night. A team we’re chasing in the standings in Carolina, they get points on us. It would have been nice to get that extra point, and I was just a little upset we didn’t get two.”

Entering Tuesday's game in Florida, Buffalo is 5-2-2 with Eichel in the lineup. The Sabres are averaging three goals with him compared to 1.8 without him.

As fans have watched Eichel make a difference, coach Dan Bylsma has heard him be a game-changer.

“One of the things you don’t get to see is his intensity on the bench,” Bylsma said. “He’s right now one of the guys that’s leading on the bench, his words and his demeanor and the way we need to play and the way we have to play. That’s something he’s been pretty consistent with.

“He’s a guy that’s doing that, and he’s trying to go on the ice and do it with his play as well.”

The game against the Panthers will be Eichel’s 10th of the season. He recorded five goals and eight points in the first nine. He shot out of the gate, putting up three goals and an assist in two games, then hit a lull with one assist in four outings. He has three points in the past three while rounding into game shape.

“Obviously, you’d like to see a little more production and points on the board, but I think for the most part I’ve played pretty well,” Eichel said. “I’ve been a little inconsistent, and I’m just trying to bring it more consistently every shift I’m on the ice.”

Spending three days in Florida has brought back memories of Eichel’s NHL start. Buffalo drafted him in the Panthers’ arena in 2015 and he made several appearances in the area leading up to the event.

“I had some good memories in this building, so it’s always nice to come back,” Eichel said. “It doesn’t hurt that the weather’s nice, too.”

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