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Jack's Back - Eichel set to make return vs. Sens

Posted at 12:35 PM, Nov 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-29 12:35:07-05

He’s back. 

Buffalo Sabres fans have been anxiously awaiting the return of forward Jack Eichel for nearly seven weeks, but on Tuesday, the wait will finally be over, when Eichel makes his 2016 regular season debut.

It has been 48 days since Eichel suffered a mild high-ankle sprain in practice the day before the regular season opener. Without Eichel, the Sabres sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division with 19 points in 21 games (7-9-5).

Expect Eichel to jump right back into the swing of things, getting plenty of ice time both at even strength and on the power play.

Before making the trip to Ottawa the Sabres spent a big chunk of Monday’s practice working on the power play, and Eichel was front and center, on a unit with Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo.

“I feel good,” Eichel said Monday after practice. “You know moving, no real restrictions so I feel pretty good right now.”

Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma agreed.

“I think he looks real good,” Bylsma said. “His staking is good, he’s beating guys, stepping off guys, creating room and separation — he looks good to me.”

Bove’s Take:

Congrats Sabres fans, you’ve made it. I know these seven weeks have felt like an eternity, but remember, you need to think of this with a glass half full approach. Before the season many of us, myself included, thought the Sabres would be fighting for a playoff spot in late March and early April.

Well things didn’t go according to plan right out the gate — but even with the Sabres early struggles, they are only six points out of a wild card spot.

The return of Eichel should give the Sabres a massive boost, but be patient with Eichel and don’t expect one player to solve the Sabres scoring woes.

However, what Eichel will do is make the players around him better, especially Reinhart and Kane. Both forwards have underperformed early on this season, but the addition of a play-making center like Eichel will help immensely. 

In 21 games the Sabres have 39 goals, averaging just 1.86 goals a game. Even after missing the first seven weeks of the season I can confidently say I expect Eichel to flirt with 20 goals if he stays healthy from here on out.

No, I don’t expect Eichel to have an Auston Matthews four goal night against the Senators or anything like that, but I do expect big things from Eichel this season — and if he looks like the player we watched last year, this season is far from over.