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'It's a complete honor': Eichel looks ahead to Captains Night

Forward will join 15 former captains during pregame ceremony on Saturday

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Fans who walk into KeyBank Center on Saturday night will be greeted by a series of banners hung throughout the atrium, each depicting a moment from the Sabres' 50-year history. 

There are images of Dominik Hasek, Pat LaFontaine, Danny Gare, and Daniel Briere. Fans will see Gilbert Perreault being carried on the shoulders of his teammates after scoring his 500th NHL goal and Ryan Miller and company at the inaugural Winter Classic in Orchard Park. 

Among those banners is an image of Jack Eichel celebrating his second NHL goal. Eichel will again find himself among Sabres greats prior to Saturday's home opener against New Jersey, when the team welcomes 15 former captains to the ice as part of a pregame ceremony. 

Eichel had just passed beneath those atrium banners as he considered what the moment will mean.  

"It's a really, really special moment just to put that into perspective and think about the franchise and obviously what an honor it is to be the captain of this franchise," he said. 

"To think about the history and all the past captains, what it was like for them to wear the 'C,' and for me to carry on the tradition - it's a complete honor. It's really cool that the Sabres are doing this tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it."

Eichel's time with the Sabres has given him the chance to pick the brains of some of the organization's regularly returning alumni, a group that includes Gare and Rene Robert. He's spoken with Chris Drury, a fellow Boston University alum, about what it was like in Buffalo during his three seasons as captain. 

He had plenty of time to hear stories from former captain Jason Pominville, his teammate the past two seasons. Pominville's tales of the mid-2000s, combined with videos and Rick Jeanneret's famous calls from the era, fuel a hunger to return the organization to springtime hockey. 

"It's just something that we want to recreate so badly," Eichel said. "Obviously, it's been a tough go here for a little bit but we're so desperate to get back to playing meaningful games and bring that atmosphere around this arena."

Video: What makes Buffalo a special hockey town?

Eichel stressed that it was only one game, but Thursday's season-opening victory in Pittsburgh was a good start. The Sabres stuck to the aggressive approach they worked on throughout the preseason and kept their foot on the pedal even after going up by two goals in the second period. 

"I think a lot of the guys in the room were pretty excited about it after the game," Eichel said. "I thought the way we played, it was the new brand of Sabres hockey."

As the golden celebration begins tomorrow, the Sabres will look to introduce that new brand to their home crowd. That includes the returning alumni.

"It's always great to have them around," Eichel said. "Obviously, they represented the organization so well and you want to make them proud."


Friday's practice

Video: Sabres defense getting the job done

The Sabres stuck with the same lines that led them to the win in Pittsburgh:

68 Victor Olofsson - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 17 Vladimir Sobotka
13 Jimmy Vesey - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 43 Conor Sheary
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo / 71 Evan Rodrigues

19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 33 Colin Miller
6 Marco Scandella - 10 Henri Jokiharju
58 John Gilmour

40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark

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