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Jack Eichel skates with Sabres

Buffalo center practices with team for first time since sustaining ankle injury in October

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Jack Eichel was on the ice with the rest of his Buffalo Sabres teammates on Wednesday for the first time since Oct. 12.

Eichel rejoined his teammates for the first time since he sustained a left high ankle sprain late in practice the day before the start of the season. Buffalo hosts the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, FS-D+, NHL.TV).

"It's nice to get out there with a bunch of other people other than myself," Eichel said. "You miss playing, you miss your time spent with the guys in the locker room at the same time as them and being around them … It's nice to get back in the swing of things."

Eichel, who had been skating for about 10 days on his own prior to Wednesday, skated fully and took part in some drills with the Sabres. He showed no ill effects in his skating from the injury that has kept him out all season.

"He's skated at a higher level than that the last few days," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "But it was a chance [for him] to get back at a practice, be it a morning skate, and be out there with players, commotion, movement, motion in a different way for him. So it's a good sign for everybody."

Although Eichel looked good in his return to the ice, there's no timetable for his return to game action and he's not going to hurry things along.

"An injury like this, you kind of want to take it day by day," Eichel said. "Obviously I think there's something on my calendar that I have circled where I think I can play, but that's pretty fragile and can change pretty quickly. I think for me personally, I just want to, not only my ankle but my entire game, I want to feel like I'm back to normal and feel like I can obviously step in and make an impact and step in the way that I want to and not really have one foot in; be completely back and really make a difference."

The Sabres have had many injuries to key players this season. Center Ryan O'Reilly missed five games with an oblique injury, left wing Evander Kane missed 11 games with four broken ribs, forward Tyler Ennis is out several weeks after groin surgery, defenseman Zach Bogosian has a sprained MCL and is out for several weeks as is forward Nicolas Deslauriers (knee injury), and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is week-to-week with a lower back injury.

With so many players out, the Sabres offense has struggled. Buffalo is last in the league in goals scored (36) and has the lowest goals-per-game average (1.89). Getting Eichel back in the lineup can only help.

"Teams go through lulls in a season, that's why it's 82 games," Eichel said. "We don't score goals for a couple games and it's almost like everyone's jumping on the fact that you're missing guys and what's wrong with the team and everything like that. It's going to happen… For us now, we've got to start adding the wins up and I look forward to getting back and helping the team do that."

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