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Eichel out for Sabres against Devils

Center has been slowed by injury sustained before training camp, coach says

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Jack Eichel is not playing for the Buffalo Sabres against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday because of a lower-body injury.

Earlier Thursday, Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger revealed the center sustained an injury that sidelined him for multiple weeks before training camp. It is unknown if this injury is related.

"Everybody has to realize that he had an injury pre-training camp that pretty well parked him from doing a lot of physical activities for multiple weeks," Krueger said on WGR 550. "He started training camp a week delayed. The game pace that we've had and the forced almost eight-day break (for NHL COVID-19 protocol) that everyone had a few weeks ago, he has worked as hard as anybody else to get himself up to speed. But all the circumstances are preventing him from being at 100 percent physical condition and shape because we just have no practices and we have no training time between the games."

The Sabres (6-8-2) began a three-game homestand against the Devils tied with them for seventh place in the eight-team MassMutual East Division.

Eichel took part in warmups after not participating in the morning skate. He was tied with forward Victor Olofsson for the Sabres lead with 14 points and scored two goals in 16 games.

"The way this season is and the way the games are coming at us, we're monitoring each individual in a different way, and we just felt for the game tonight, it was best for him to pass on the pregame skate today," Krueger said. "You all need to be ready for all kinds of situations where we break routine for what we feel is more like a playoff pace coming at us now. Finding different ways to gather energy, especially on the high-minute guys. That could be quite regular moving forward right now."

Eichel was averaging 20:50 of ice time per game, first among Sabres forwards. He led Buffalo with 50 shots on goal and has hit a goal post five times, tied with Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl for the NHL lead. Eichel scored 78 points (36 goals, 42 assists) in 68 games last season and has never scored fewer than 24 goals in his five previous NHL seasons.

"I think he was really able to build some energy in the last game (a 4-1 win at the Devils on Tuesday), and like you said, the posts were almost confirmations of doing the right things, being in the right places, making the right plays and just being off by a millimeter or a percentage point," Krueger said prior to the game. "I like what happened in his mind following the game and where he is right now, so I'm optimistic he's about to explode.

"He's dealt with the reentry, which was so difficult off the injury he had just prior to training camp, late training camp, and trying to get into and up to the level that he expects from himself and that we're all used to while we're playing games has not been an easy task. But we feel he's inching ever so close to where he wants to be, and, again, I want to underline last game was a positive point where I'm expecting another level here today."

NHL.com independent correspondent Heather Engel contributed to this report

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