The Buffalo Sabres didn’t get good news concerning star sophomore Jack Eichel, but they didn’t get the worst news, either.
Eichel, 19, suffered a scary-looking injury during the Sabres’ practice Wednesday ahead of their season-opening game against the Montreal Canadiens. The injury came on a seemingly innocuous play, as Eichel got tangled up in front of the goal and fell. However, an awkward fall caused Eichel’s leg to get caught under his body and resulted in what has been determined to be a high-ankle sprain.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Wednesday that Eichel could be out a minimum of 4-6 weeks with the high-ankle sprain, but cautioned that the Sabres were looking to get more information before confirming the length of the injury.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma didn’t give a firm timeline on when Eichel could return when speaking to media Thursday, but Bylsma did say it would be, “certainly more weeks than days,” according to NHL.com’s Joe Yerdon. Meanwhile, the Associated Press’ John Wawrow noted that Eichel could be back on his feet in two weeks and that Bylsma referred to the sprain as “moderate.”
For Sabres fans, hearing high-ankle sprain almost certainly conjures up the image of goaltender Robin Lehner, who was acquired ahead of the 2015-16 campaign and expected to be the team’s No. 1 goaltender throughout the past season. Instead, Lehner suffered a high-ankle sprain not even halfway through his Sabres debut and proceeded to miss the next 39 games. Later in the season, Lehner was again on the shelf for 11 games with an ankle injury.
The hope is that Eichel’s ankle sprain doesn’t have the same — or even a similar — outcome. A 4-6 week timeline for his return, while optimistic, would put Eichel back into action by the middle of November and force him out of anywhere from nine to 16 games. That’s the best-case scenario, of course.
There is a small glimmer of hope from the situation, though. With the way Eichel went down, some thought there was a possibility of much worse than a high-ankle sprain, and that Bylsma’s report of the injury Thursday didn’t include “season-ending” means there’s hope for him yet.
Before going down injured, Eichel was getting set to build on a stellar rookie campaign that saw him post 25 goals and 56 points in 81 games, and getting him back sooner rather than later would be a boon to Buffalo’s chances of contending for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
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