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Sabres' Eichel practices again, remains game-time decision

Well after most Sabres had left the ice, Jack Eichel was still skating. He wants to get in game shape and play.

He might be ready Saturday against Chicago, but there's just as good a chance he won't be.

The center was a game-time decision after working out Friday. Eichel practiced fully, but he also was talking about the need to avoid further damaging his sprained ankle.

"I felt good," Eichel said in KeyBank Center. "I thought I took another step.

"It's tough. Obviously, as a competitor and a hockey player you want to be out there, and you want to be out there every night. But you also have to make the best decision for yourself and the team."

Eichel, who has been out since Feb. 10, has been talking with General Manager Jason Botterill and the coaching and training staffs about a return.

"Obviously, they don't want me to rush it back and then have another setback," Eichel said. "It's a tough situation, but I'm just trying to take it day-by-day and get to the point where I'm confident in it and feel like I can go out there and make a difference."

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The 21-year-old is looking to last season for help in his decision. He missed the opening 21 games with a high-ankle sprain. He's up to 15 this year.

"Going through it last year, it's a good experience for me, and I thought I took a lot from it and this rehab process," he said. "It's not something you want to rush into and set yourself back and then head into the summer behind the eight-ball."

Despite missing five weeks, Eichel still leads the Sabres with 22 goals and 53 points in 55 games. Buffalo has 12 games left, starting with the 1 p.m. visit by the Blackhawks.

"It was another good practice, a lot of bumping and grinding," coach Phil Housley said. "We'll see how his ankle responds to that."

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