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Jack Eichel is slowly but surely on the road to recovery

The Buffalo Sabres phenom has been laid up with a high ankle sprain and while rehabbing is a tough ordeal, the young center is making sure he does it right

Jack Eichel hasn’t played a game yet this season and he would like to change that. On the other hand, the Buffalo Sabres star is not going to rush back from the high ankle sprain he sustained just before the season began.

“You have doctors and trainers telling you to relax, but that was tough for me,” Eichel said. “But the swelling goes down quicker that way.”

Eichel skated for the first time since the injury on Thursday and pushed off without pain. It’s a positive step, but he still didn’t have a timeline for his return. In the meantime, the ultra-talented center is taking care of off-ice business as the newest athlete to endorse BODYARMOR, a sports drink also championed by James Harden (NBA), Mike Trout (MLB) and Richard Sherman (NFL), among others.

“It’s something I drank throughout college” Eichel said. “I’m a big fan of the coconut water it has in it, plus there’s no preservatives. It’s important to partner with companies you believe in.”

On top of downing strawberry-banana BODYARMOR to his heart’s content, Eichel also has business relationships with Bauer and Tim Hortons. He believes that it’s important to market himself, while at the same time never forgetting that hockey is the machine that drives all the other stuff.

If anything, endorsement work has given him something to think about during a tough stretch. Not only did he miss the beginning of the season, but the Sabres went on a western road trip early on, leaving the ailing pivot back in Buffalo to heal.

“The toughest part is the mental aspect,” Eichel said. “Not being able to play, not being with your teammates.”

Eichel’s mom stayed with him for bit, while other family and friends dropped by to keep his spirits up. Being in a boot and on crutches initially, Eichel found it difficult to do almost anything the first couple days. Things got better over time, with the boot turning into an air cast, while the Sabres’ chefs have helped out by cooking extra meals for Eichel to take home with him.

More recently, his rehab has gotten more advanced as he heals. He’ll get to the rink at 8:30 in the morning and leave at 1 p.m. Activities have included shooting pucks and doing lower-body workouts. Getting to skate on Thursday was a big step and Eichel is firm in his convictions not to rush the process.

This is smart, as the Sabres are surviving early on, despite a carousel of injuries – Evander Kane and now Tyler Ennis being two other notables. A fully healthy Eichel is much more useful than a rushed and tentative version, even if it means more time on the shelf. And while he has already missed showdowns with Connor McDavid, Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews, there are rematches with Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto later in the schedule.

“You want to be a part of it, but I know I’ll get there eventually,” Eichel said. “There is that light at the end of the tunnel.”


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