BUFFALO -- Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel never had a serious injury playing hockey until he sustained a high left ankle sprain during practice Wednesday.
His challenge now will be learning to be patient as his ankle heals.
"I think more than anything, it's just disappointing," Eichel, 19, said Friday, when he spoke about the injury for the first time. "You train all summer and you're just so excited for the season to get going, and a bad bounce, a little step back. But it's part of the game. It's something you've got to deal with and deal with the right way, and that's something I've got to do here."
Sabres general manager Tim Murray said Thursday that Eichel is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Eichel's left leg is in a walking boot and he is getting around by way of a scooter.
"I've been out before, but nothing like this," Eichel said. "More things that are day to day. This is more of a wait game where you have to give it time and you don't really want to rush anything because it's an injury that can come back to you. Timetable-wise you really don't know. It's really something you worry about rushing things and not feeling good when you come back. As I said, it's something you really want to take time and make sure you're 100 percent."
Sabres goalie Robin Lehner missed most of last season because of a more severe high ankle sprain. Forward Tyler Ennis missed six weeks with a sprained ankle during the 2011-12 season, came back, reinjured the ankle and was out another six weeks. Eichel knows the timetable to get healthy is more of a moving target, depending on how his recovery progresses.
"You can wake up one morning and feel great, you can wake up the next and not feel good, so you're in this boot for 10 days or so and you see how you feel," Eichel said. "That's kind of where I'm at right now, and patience is an important thing for this. It's a long season. You don't want to rush back and then see yourself out again, so [I'm] just doing the right things and listening to people."
The Sabres opened the season with a 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday without Eichel, forward Kyle Okposo (knee) and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (lower-body bruise). Left wing Evander Kane cracked three ribs against Montreal after he crashed into the boards and will be out for weeks, coach Dan Bylsma said Friday. Center Ryan O'Reilly and defenseman Zach Bogosian also missed time during training camp because of injury.
"We all understand in here that this is part of the game," Eichel said. "I know that there's a couple guys out, but you see some of the guys that can step up and fill some big roles in here, and we know that there's plenty of people in here that are going to pick up the slack of the guys that are injured and vice versa if it was the other way around.
"It's hockey and injuries and things like this are part of it. I'm looking forward to watching these guys, and hopefully getting back with them sooner than later."