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Eichel leaves practice with ankle injury

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Practice fell silent at KeyBank Center on Wednesday, when Jack Eichel fell awkwardly on his left ankle and had to be helped off the ice by his teammates and trainers. Eichel's ankle appeared to twist as he went down in front of the net.

Sabres coach Dan Bylsma confirmed that it was Eichel's ankle that was hurt, but said the team is awaiting updates.

"At this point not a lot to tell," Bylsma said. "He's going to get evaluated this afternoon. I think the initial shock, you see that, but we're gonna let it calm down here and get it evaluated and see the extent of him turning his ankle there."

The Sabres were practicing the power play with their most complete unit to date. Kyle Okposo was still absent due to a bruise on his knee, which was also sustained in practice, but Ryan O'Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen were among those returning to practice on the eve of their regular season opener.

Bylsma stressed the importance of not jumping to conclusions before Eichel is evaluated, but he recognized the shock of the players on the ice given the the nature of the injury and the player involved. Eichel is entering his second season after scoring 56 points as a rookie. 

 "At that point in time you probably could slap them in the face to say, 'Snap out if it,' but everyone's thoughts are with the injury and with the extent of it," Bylsma said. "We'll all deal with it."

The turnaround time will be quick. The Sabres open their season against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at KeyBank Center.

"Whatever the extent of the situation is, our team is not just Jack Eichel," Bylsma said. "It's not just Ryan O'Reilly. It's just not one player. You expect to have to deal with injuries throughout the year and it just happens that, if he is injured or the extent of his injury, it's happening on the cusp of the season."

UPDATE (4:16 P.M.)

Tweet from @SabresPR: Injury Update: Sabres forward Jack Eichel has been diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain. As of now, no timetable has been set for his return.

Okposo ruled out for Thursday

Bylsma said that Okposo will not play against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, but that he will join the team for the morning skate. His update on O'Reilly was more promising.

"He's still out there working on his game," Bylsma said some 20 minutes after practice had ended. "I thought he looked good and I talked to him briefly on the ice. We'll see how he is post-practice here, how he responded to practice today to see if that means he's going to be in tomorrow."


Rasmus returns

Ristolainen returned to practice after signing a six-year deal with the Sabres on Tuesday. He skated on a pair with Dmitry Kulikov and practiced on a power-play unit with Eichel, O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart and Tyler Ennis.  


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