Jack Eichel has taken the first step to a return to the Buffalo Sabres' lineup.
The Sabres' top offensive player skated on his own Saturday for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain Feb. 10 in Boston, coach Phil Housley said after practice Sunday in KeyBank Center. Eichel, however, is still not ready to practice with the team and there's no timetable for any sort of return to action.
"We don't want to put him under that sort of pressure," Housley said. "He has skated. He started skating yesterday so that's good to see him start making progress."
Eichel remains the Sabres' leader in goals, assists and points with 22-31-53 in his 55 games. The team is 4-5-1 in the 10 games Eichel has missed. Buffalo won the Feb. 10 game in Boston that saw Eichel suffer the injury and sit out the final 46 minutes.
Eichel, of course, won't be in the lineup for Monday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's the first meeting of the season between the archrivals, and the first of four matchups over the season's final 17 games. Housley said Eichel is definitely aiming to play in some of those games.
"That's the goal. But you never know how these things react," Housley said. "You don't want to put any timeline on it but it's good to see him skating and that's a step in the right direction. Obviously, he wants to play some games before the end of the year."