CHICAGO - When it was announced last Tuesday that Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly would be out for some time after undergoing a successful appendectomy over the holiday break, the expectation was that he'd miss about two weeks for rest and recovery and then an additional few days so that he could get back into game shape.
That timeframe could be thrown out the window as O'Reilly was back on the ice with his teammates for practice at United Center in Chicago, just 10 days after the operation.
"We talked about 10 to 14 days of inactivity and he got the go-ahead to start skating and do some exercises a couple days ago," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "He skated yesterday and felt real well and saw the doctor and the doctor gave him the green light to go forward.
"Yesterday, after he skated in the morning-time and after he saw the doctor in the afternoon, we knew he'd be coming, joining us, and skating here today."
Video: BYLSMA: After Practice
O'Reilly said that on Christmas Eve, he wasn't feeling well and at about 10:30 that night, he called the doctor.
"'Hey, I want to make sure this isn't appendicitis or anything like that,'" O'Reilly recalled saying. "Unfortunately it was, but it was good because we caught it in time and I didn't travel with it or anything."
After having the surgery on Dec. 25, O'Reilly said he was out of commission for about five days and on a liquid diet. He says he's fortunate it occurred during the three-day mandatory break because that cut down on the number of games he could've potentially missed.
Now after a practice under his belt that included some work on the power play, he thinks he'll be ready for Thursday night's match against the Chicago Blackhawks, which can be seen at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
"I want to play tomorrow. I feel like I can for sure," O'Reilly said. "I might be a little rusty, but I feel like I'm ready to get back. I still think I can be effective and it's just a matter of talking with all the management and staff to make sure everyone's safe with it and I'll be safe with it."
If O'Reilly plays, Bylsma said it's likely that Sam Reinhart would stay in the middle. That would make O'Reilly, Jack Eichel, Reinhart and Zemgus Girgensons the top four centermen.
Brian Duff has more on the depth at that position and how they've fared in O'Reilly's absence in today's Sabres In :90.
Video: Sabres in :90 (1/4/17)
The Sabres are coming off a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in a game where they held New York to 25 shots on goal and few quality scoring chances. What's really impressive is that they did it without O'Reilly and Johan Larsson - their best defensive centers - and defenseman Josh Gorges and Dmitry Kulikov.
Taylor Fedun was a late recall for the game after it was determined Gorges could not play due to a hip injury he had sustained the day before. Fedun said he flew out to New York at around 10 a.m. to be ready for the 7 p.m. faceoff.
He skated 13:11 in the game (3:15 on the power play) and recorded two shots with an even plus/minus rating.
Fedun posted four assists and a plus-1 rating during an eight-game stint with the Sabres from Nov. 17 to Dec. 3, 2016.
He was able to use that experience to help make an impact with the Rochester Americans, and, in turn, that confidence enabled him to turn in a strong performance while on a pair with Justin Falk last night.
"The games I got last month or whatever it was gave me a good indication of the way I need to play to be successful and be effective at this level," he said. "Having that kind of in my back pocket coming back, that really helped knowing that - I mean, this game's so mental a lot of the time - to have that going in on such short notice goes a long way."
With the Amerks this year, Fedun is seventh on the team in scoring (first among defensemen) with 17 points (4+13) in 20 games. He picked up three points in back-to-back wins for the Amerks last week, including an overtime winner against Lehigh Valley.
82 Marcus Foligno - 15 Jack Eichel - 21 Kyle Okposo
9 Evander Kane - 23 Sam Reinhart - 56 Justin Bailey
27 Derek Grant - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 12 Brian Gionta
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 26 Matt Moulson
4 Josh Gorges - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
47 Zach Bogosian - 6 Cody Franson
41 Justin Falk - 38 Taylor Fedun
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson
First Power-Play Unit
Second Power-Play Unit
Jake McCabe was given a maintenance day and William Carrier missed practice due to an illness.