This Thanksgiving Buffalo Sabres fans have yet another reason to be thankful - Jack Eichel is back on the ice.
The star forward rejoined his teammates at practice Wednesday at KeyBank Center for the first time since injuring his ankle six weeks ago.
"I've been skating for a pretty long time now so it's nice to get out there with some other people instead of myself," Eichel said after practice.
Eichel won't play Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings and is still likely at least a week away from his return to the lineup.
"I'm not putting a time frame on it," said Sabres Head Coach Dan Bylsma, before adding "the end is near."
Bylsma said Eichel would need a few more higher paced practices before he could start thinking about a return. He hinted those practices would come next week around the game against the Washington Capitals on December 5th.
"It's a good sign for everybody for him to be able to get out there and do that,” Bylsma told reporters. “Hopefully he can progress in the next few days for more levels of practice.”
At practice, Eichel worked off to the side for the second half of the skate working with different Sabres coaches. Bylsma said Eichel has actually had more intense skates while rehabbing than he did Wednesday. After practice Eichel said that being away from his teammates has been the hardest part.
"That's what you miss the most when you're hurt,” Eichel said. “You miss playing, you miss your time spent with the guys in the locker room at the same time as them and just being around them. It's tough when you're not on the same schedule as them but it's nice to get back in the swing of things."
Since starting his rehab Eichel said there hasn’t been any setbacks with his injury, but made it very clear, he doesn’t want to return until he can contribute and feels like he’s 100 percent.
“An injury like this you kind of want to take it day by day,” Eichel added. “Obviously I think there’s something I have on my calendar where I have circled when I think I can play but that’s pretty fragile and can change pretty quickly.”
I think Eichel looked great in the limited work we saw on Wednesday. His shot looked solid, he looked comfortable skating and looked explosive, which is a huge part of his game. High-ankle sprains can linger – so I don’t think the Sabres should be rushing him back to the lineup – and I don’t think they will. Eichel himself said that he doesn’t want to come back until he’s 100 percent. If that means sitting out two or three more games, than that’s what has to happen.