After going winless in the last five games, Buffalo Sabres coach Phil Housley revamped the line combinations Monday.
Skating in the morning in KeyBank Center in advance of tonight's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Housley moved center Jack Eichel to the third line with Zemgus Girgensons and Jason Pominville.
Ryan O'Reilly centered the top line with Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart. Johan Larsson was between Benoit Pouliot and Kyle Okposo on the second line while Kyle Criscuolo centered the fourth line with Jordan Nolan and Seth Griffith.
"We're obviously trying to get things going and switch things up so we'll see tonight," Eichel said of the new line combinations. "No message. It's part of the game."
But people would say that Eichel is not the top-line center anymore.
"I don't," Eichel said. "They just changed the lines and I'm playing with two new players."
This means Eichel is no longer playing with Evander Kane ("I should be able to play with anybody," Eichel said) and now with Girgensons ("He works hard, he battles, he's a pretty smart player who understands the game," Eichel said).
Housley said he didn't think Eichel was being demoted. Nor did he see Eichel on the third line.
"There's no third line. … I don't think Eichel is being demoted. I think he's such a terrific player you can put anybody on his wings," Housley said.
"I just tried to look back at what the chemistry some of the players had before," Housley said. "We just tried to get new combinations to give them a fresh start tonight. Obviously we haven't generated enough so we had to make a change.
Through 20 games, Eichel has struggled to produce. He was invisible again for long stretches Saturday -- not getting a single shot on goal for more than 48 minutes. Eichel has five goals in 20 games, tallying just once in his last 11.
Eichel agreed to an eight-year, $80 million extension before the season began.