After missing the last 11 games with a foot injury, Ryan O’Reilly practiced Monday without the red non-contact sweater and is expecting to return to the lineup Wednesday night, when the Sabres face the Canadiens at First Niagara Center.
O’Reilly said he can’t wait to get back on the ice and that he even wanted to play against the Hurricanes. Today he skated at full speed and said there was nothing he couldn’t do.
“I felt great. Hopefully things go well and I can play the next game. It definitely feels like a long time, just watching the practices and watching games – so it’s nice to be back there with the guys,” said O’Reilly.
With O’Reilly out of the lineup, Coach Bylsma has had Jack Eichel playing with Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart. The line has been a force, creating chances on almost every shift. In seven games, the 9-15-23 combination has posted 8 goals and 12 assists for 20 points. The last one being Eichel’s breakaway goal in a 3-2 overtime win against Carolina on Saturday.
O’Reilly’s return will shuffle lines slightly. Evander Kane and Nicolas Deslauriers will join O’Reilly, while Zemgus Girgensons will slide in alongside Eichel and Reinhart.
Bylsma is hoping Zemgus’ offense can get a jump-start by playing with Sam and Jack, noting the line worked well earlier this season. He added, “I think his best so far this year has been next to Jack and produced in that little stretch before Ryan’s injury and going back there is going to be a good opportunity for him to get back to where we think he can be producing for our team.”
Tyler Ennis and Cody Franson are improving but still are not practicing yet. Bylsma says he hasn’t given up hope of Ennis playing again this season, returning to the ice after two concussions.