Jack Eichel has been lighting the lamp consistently since his return, and despite missing 21 games to start the season, he’s on pace to come close to a 30-goal season in his sophomore campaign.
With Ryan O’Reilly out of the lineup for what’s likely to be at least one or two weeks, the Buffalo Sabres entered Tuesday’s tilt against the Detroit Red Wings without their top-line center, riding a four-game skid and looking to find a way forward in the second half of the campaign.
Lucky for the Sabres, Jack Eichel seems to be in better than mid-season form even though Tuesday marked only his 13th game of the campaign.
Late in the second frame, Buffalo had its 2-0 lead cut in half when Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg scored a bizarre goal by bouncing the puck in off of Robin Lehner’s mask, but Eichel would need just 22 seconds to put the Sabres back out in front by two.
Shortly after the post-goal faceoff, Eichel broke down the ice along the left wing, going one-on-one with Detroit’s Tomas Vanek. Recognizing he was up against a forward, Eichel slowed up, made a quick backhand-to-forehand deke and drove to the outside on Vanek. As he powered around Vanek, Eichel stuck out his leg to block any potential stick checks, watched Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek drop to the ice and open up a hole up top and from his spot along the goal line, Eichel got the puck up and over Mrazek’s shoulder.
The tally was Eichel’s sixth of the campaign and his 10th point in 13 outings, and the sophomore is already on the best scoring pace of anyone in the Sabres’ lineup. At 0.77 points per game, Eichel is scoring at a rate better than that of major off-season signing Kyle Okposo, is only three goals back of taking over the team’s scoring lead and, despite missing 21 games, is on pace to surpass his 24-goal total from his rookie campaign.
Eventually the Red Wings would tie up Tuesday’s game before Evander Kane fired home the winner for the Sabres, and though it wasn’t a major move up the standings, the 4-3 victory pushed Buffalo ahead of Detroit in the standings.
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