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Sabres Notebook: Eichel knows he needs to shoot more

After the media scrum had left his locker Tuesday night, Jack Eichel said out loud, to no one in particular, "I need to shoot the puck more."

It's been a theme for the 21-year-old Buffalo Sabres forward, blessed with offensive hockey talent. But sometimes, he overpasses, tries to be a playmaker, when the better course of action was probably a simple shot on goal.

"I think I need to learn to shoot the puck. I think our fans are getting a little sick of me trying to pass it," Eichel told the group of reporters at his stall after the Sabres defeated the Washington Capitals, 3-1, in KeyBank Center.

Eichel did not practice on Wednesday as he and Evander Kane were given "maintenance" days.

Eichel has scored his four goals on 46 shots this season. That's an 8.7 shooting percentage. He does lead the Sabres with 10 assists in his 15 games.

"One thing that Jack does really well is he's a very confident person with the puck," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "He handles it well, and he creates his own opportunities and chances for his linemates. I'd like to see him shoot more, especially on the two-on-ones. He's got a terrific shot. I know he's an unselfish player in that regard, but sometimes you'd like to see him shoot more."

So how do you get a player to shoot more?

"It's just constant reminders," Housley said. "You don't have to pick the corner every time. There's opportunity to do that. There's opportunity to try and create a rebound and a second chance. But we have to keep reinforcing that message."

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While Eichel and Kane were missing, the Sabres did have three players back practicing — defensemen Josh Gorges and Nathan Beaulieu and forward Justin Bailey.

Gorges said he feels ready to go after his lower body injury kept him out for eight games.

Beaulieu, who missed seven games with an upper body injury, was more guarded in the timetable for his return.

"The thing about hockey players is about 99 percent of them never play at 100 percent," Beaulieu said. "All I can say is that I'm progressing in the right direction. We're going to try and take it one day at a time. Pretty fortunate that I get two good practices in here."

The defender would love to be ready for Saturday's game in Montreal where he played five seasons. The Canadiens traded him to the Sabres over the summer.

"I've had that game circled for a while," Beaulieu said. "But I've got to understand it's a long season and I don't want to rush anything. Obviously that would be great if I could get back by then, but I don't want to risk myself to be out any longer."

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The Sabres power play went 0 for 4 in Tuesday's win and remains one of the three worst units in the NHL. The Sabres rank 29 out of 31 teams with a power play that's converting 11.5 percent of the time (6 for 52).

"The philosophy is just stick with it," Housley said. "There's going to be teams that are going to go through stretches like this during the season where they're doing a lot of good things and they're not getting rewarded for it.

"I think we've just got to continue to hammer the message of just shooting pucks and keeping it very simple and basic. When we do have our shots, it's the shot selection. It's a combination of different things. We're not getting the net-front presence or we're shooting it from the outside. We need to work on shooting pucks and trying to get people in front of the goaltender."

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