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Sabres test linemates for Eichel in camp scrimmage

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- The first day on the ice for Buffalo Sabres rookie forward Jack Eichel at training camp saw him find out who he may be skating with this season.

Eichel was put on a line with Matt Moulson and 2015 all-star Zemgus Girgensons for the first practice and scrimmage.

"It went really well. I think the coaching staff has been harping on speed and we're going to play fast," Eichel said. "If you saw that practice, I think that's pretty evident. We're getting up and down the ice a lot. I know it's tough on us for the first day, but in the long run I think it'll pay off. I know we'll be in good shape."

Sabres coach Dan Bylsma put Eichel with Moulson based on their instant chemistry. Moulson invited Eichel, the second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, to live with him and his family this season as the 18-year-old adapts to life in the NHL.

"He's a great kid," Moulson said. "I think you ask people about someone to try and get a feel of them before you meet them and I think it was instant chemistry off the ice. Hopefully it transfers on the ice. He's great with my family, my kids, and my wife, and he really is a great kid with a big heart. I think it'll be a really fun year. He's got that youthful energy about him that kind of flows through me I guess when he's at home with his excitement and energy."

The other factor in having Moulson play with Eichel was based on Moulson's history of success alongside New York Islanders center John Tavares from 2009 to 2012.

"It was a thought. That was a thought … I mean, most of me watching Matt play has been for the Islanders on that line with Tavares," Bylsma said. "But I think Matt's also a guy who thrives being around the net and being at the cage and that's where he's his best at. Jack, with his speed, is going to be able to get the puck there and deliver it to him."

The addition of Girgensons to play the right wing with Eichel made for a change from last season when Girgensons was the center on Buffalo's first line. When Girgensons entered the League in 2013-14, he began the season as a right wing, but his role with Eichel will be a little different.

"The reason why it's Zemgus on the wing with Jack is because you're offering some protection in the center position to have Zemgus on Jack's wing," Bylsma said. "If it's on a [defensive] zone faceoff or a matchup on the road, you have a real solid player down low. He could take the draw; he could play in that spot and have Jack play the wing as they come out of [defensive] zone coverage, so it offers protection for Jack there."

Girgensons had career-highs in goals (15) and points (30) last season despite missing the final 21 games of the season because of a leg injury. Reuniting with Moulson, who he joined on a line with Tyler Ennis last season, and playing with Eichel offers the opportunity to score even more.

"[Eichel]'s a great player," Girgensons said. "Of course it was the first day, it takes time to know a guy the way he plays and get the click going. He's an amazing player and I look forward to being with him in this camp."

Eichel mentioned he might play in the Sabres' first preseason game on the road against the Minnesota Wild on Sept. 21. If he's working with Moulson and Girgensons, it could be the first glimpse of what is to come this season.

"Hopefully I'll get the chance to play with Matt," Eichel said. "Obviously he's had a lot of success in the NHL. We have real good chemistry off the ice because we spend a lot of time together. I'm thinking that'll translate to on the ice the way it usually does. Just trust in him and I want to get him the puck because he can shoot it. He's a great a player and so is Zemgus. He had a great year last year and I have two really good players to play with, so I'm excited just to make the most of the opportunity."

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