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Sabres moving in right direction with Krueger hire, Eichel says

Captain has 'heard a lot of good things' about new coach

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

KOSICE, Slovakia -- Jack Eichel is ready to get to work with new Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger.

Krueger was hired Wednesday to replace Phil Housley, who was fired April 7 after two seasons with the Sabres.  

"I've heard a lot of really good things," said Eichel, who learned of the hiring while in Kosice, where he's representing the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. 

"I'm really excited. From guys who have played for him and from people around hockey, it seems like he's a really good guy. He gets the most out of his players. I'm just looking forward to getting to know him, meeting him and get things going."

Krueger will meet with Eichel and forward Sam Reinhart, who is representing Canada at the tournament, next week in Slovakia. 

Buffalo (33-39-10) missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth straight season and finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, 22 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card.

The Sabres were 17-6-2 and first in the NHL on Nov. 2, but went 14-28-7 (35 points) in their remaining 49 games and joined the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers as the only teams in NHL history to win 10 consecutive games and miss the playoffs.

"I think we did some good things in the first half of the year," Eichel said. "Obviously the second half didn't go the way we wanted. I think you get a lot of young guys on the team and a lot of people that are going to make improvements over the summer. 

"Coming into camp next year everyone is trying to get better. I think just the second half of the year left a bit of a sour taste in our mouths. I think guys have a lot to work for. Guys have a lot to prove to themselves next year, myself included."

Eichel will play a big role in righting the Sabres. He set NHL career highs in goals (28), assists (54) and points (82) in 77 games with Buffalo in 2018-19, his first season as captain.

Video: OTT@BUF: Eichel slips a rebound around Daccord

"I think you can always get better," said Eichel, who has 259 points (101 goals, 158 assists) in 286 NHL games. "At Christmas break I was really rolling and I was in a good spot and I think I got a little dinged up in the second half and it slowed me down a bit. Unfortunately, I didn't keep pace the exact same I wanted to. For me, it's just trying to get healthy and try to be consistent every night as much as possible and do whatever I can to help our team win games."

Individually, and as a group, Eichel is looking ahead to good things next season.

"I'm just excited that we have a coach now and we can get things going in the right direction again," he said.

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