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5 Observations: Eichel leaves early in Sabres 3-1 loss to Islanders

Posted: 9:05 PM, Dec 31, 2018
Updated: 2019-01-17 16:09:34Z
Robin Lehner turns away 39 of 40 shots faced in a 3-1 win against his former team

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Jack Eichel, who was a game-time decision leading up to Monday's game, skated only 2:42 before heading to the locker room and never returning against the New York Islanders. With their captain missing for nearly the entire game the Sabres couldn't solve former teammate Robin Lehner until it was too late, falling to the Islanders 3-1. With the loss, the Sabres fall to 21-13-6 on the season.

Five observations from Monday's loss:

So what's wrong with Jack?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Here is what we do know -- according to Housley it's an upper-body injury that was re-aggravated during the first period.

"I don't think it's going to keep him out too long," Housley added.

Eichel was given a maintenance day on Sunday and wasn't on the ice at Sabres practice. On Monday Eichel was a full-participant at morning skate and was out with his teammates as the game began against the Islanders. After just a few shifts Eichel went into the locker room and never returned.

When his teammates came to the ice for the start of the second period Eichel was still absent. Minutes later, the team officially ruled Eichel out of Monday's game.

What happens next?

To be clear -- at this point, we don't know the extent of what Eichel's dealing with or how long the Sabres will be without him. But if he misses any extended time the Sabres are in big trouble. From what Housley indicated, the extent of Eichel's injury doesn't seem too serious. But we've also seen day-to-day injuries turn into something more.

In 40 games this season the Sabres biggest area of concern has been their lack of secondary scoring. Essentially aside from Eichel and his usual linemates Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart, everyone else has underperformed offensively.

These issues were on display against the Islanders once again as the Sabres failed to generate any sustained pressure until the third period. To be frank, without Eichel the Sabres are a team with two productive players on offense and a whole lot of depth guys who can't be counted on to produce. As of right now, Johan Larsson is their most productive center. That's an issue.

Good start -- Bad finish

Carter Hutton was stellar in the first 40 minutes against the Islanders but didn't get any run support. His biggest save of the night came against Josh Bailey in the first period, turning away the Isles forward with the paddle of his stick on a 2-on-1. What looked like a sure goal suddenly became one of Hutton's best saves of the season.

His dominance continued in the second period, despite getting beat by a shot from the point from Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy. Hutton stopped multiple odd-man rushes and bailed his team out of two Sabres' penalties.

Then the third period happened.

Hutton misplayed a shot from Brock Nelson and just like that the Islanders doubled their lead. Up until the final period, Hutton was the Sabres best player. He'll surely want Nelson's goal back and he should because it was probably the softest goal he's allowed this season. But based off some of the other saves he made, it's hard to put all the blame on the Sabres goaltender. His teammates did only score once, which on most nights isn't good enough.

Putting December in the Rear View

After one of their most successful months in franchise history [November], the Sabres finished December with an atrocious 4-6-3 record. It's a good thing the team banked all those points to start the season. If they hadn't they would be in even more serious trouble. For perspective, the Sabres had four wins last December before going on to finish at the bottom of the league.

Year in Review

2018 will be a year Sabres fans won't soon forget. Whether it's the woes of the 2017-2018 season, the pure joy of the draft lottery in April or the 10-game win streak in November, the year was filled with ups and downs. Take a walk down memory lane as we look back at 2018.