Man, did it feel good to have Jack back.
Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals, while Jack Eichel, Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart each had one. Rasmus Ristolainen notched two assists. And Evander Kane had one assist as the Sabres held on for a 5-4 win against Ottawa.
These are the names you expect to see all over a scoresheet after a Sabres game. No one had a sigh of relief more than General Manager Tim Murray. The architect of this team hasn’t had a chance to see what on-ice product he truly has. It’s taken nearly a quarter of a season–22 games–to see a semblance of his efforts in action. If last night’s game in Canadian Tire Centre was a glimpse into the future, things definitely look bright.
Sure, there were several defensive miscues and things to clean up, but it was fun to watch, especially with franchise centerpiece Jack Eichel in the lineup. “His ability to skate with the puck was dynamic for us. It makes us a harder team to play against in so many ways,” said Coach Dan Bylsma.
Once Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov return, this team could very well make some waves.
This offensively starved team lit the lamp three times in the first 14:18, the second highest total since game two of the season. The power play featured some terrific puck movement and crisp passes, leading to three goals with the man advantage.
Eichel skated 17:08, tallying a goal and an assist.
“I’m a little bit tired, but I’m just happy to be back in the swing of things,” Eichel said. “The ankle felt really good.”
Eichel’s presence on the ice makes the entire team better. Aside from balancing out the lineup, it adds confidence and brings another dimension to the team.
“Having Eichs back created a spark for us,” O’Reilly said. “Watching him play, as a guy that tries to create, it gives me excitement. I get to see this guy. Their line goes out, him, Rhino and Kaner are moving the puck around, they’re getting chances. Our line, we want to feed off that. So next shift we try to do the same thing.”
“Eichs has a special gift to slow things down and control things and keep plays alive,” added Captain Brian Gionta.
Next up is a visit from the high-flying New York Rangers, a team that’s putting up some staggering offensive numbers. They’re averaging a whopping 3.67 goals per game (almost a half goal more than the next closest team-Columbus at 3.19 GF/PG) and sit atop the Metropolitan Division.
“I’m excited to play in front of the fans in Buffalo,” said Eichel. “We need to just build on this.”