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Eichel to make 3rd All-Star appearance this weekend

Sabres captain leads team in all offensive categories heading into All-Star Weekend

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

St. Louis is the site for the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend and Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel is set to make his third All-Star appearance in a row.

The festivities begin Friday night with the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills competition at 8 p.m. on NBCSN and then conclude with the 2020 NHL All-Star Game on Saturday at 8 on NBC. For the fifth straight season, the All-Star Game will feature a three-game tournament, played in a 3-on-3 format, showcasing teams from each NHL division competing for a $1 million winner-take-all prize pool. Stay tuned for full coverage this weekend on Sabres.com.

Eichel is having a career year for the Sabres, leading the team in every offensive category. Through 48 games, he has 28 goals (good for 5th in the NHL), 34 assists (12th) and 62 points (9th). 

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger has seen Eichel's maturation as a second-year captain improve his performance both on and off the ice.

"We believe everybody has a leadership responsibility in the team and needs to carry that when the opportunity is there, whether it's for a few minutes in a day or whether it's for an hour," Krueger said. "Jack is embracing that as the ultimate captain and leader of the group."

The big bullet point on Eichel's resume so far this season is his 17-game point streak, in which he recorded 31 points (16+15). 

His streak officially came to an end in the NHL's record books when he missed a game due to an upper-body injury, but he recorded an assist in his return to extend the point streak to 18 personal games (Nov. 16 to Dec 21). He tied Gilbert Perreault for the longest point streak in team history. Perreault, the franchise's all-time points leader, recorded his 18-game point streak from Oct. 24 to Dec. 4, 1971.
  
Eichel has 17 multi-point games this season, which is tied for 10th in the NHL, including three four-point efforts. His six multi-goal games are tied for 3rd in the league. 

He's on pace for 47 goals, 57 assists and 105 points, which would shatter all of his previous career highs. He's also set to record the highest goal and point totals by a Sabre since Pat LaFontaine (53+95) and Alexander Mogilny (76+51) in 1992-93.

Video: OTT@BUF: Eichel nets four goals against Senators

Eichel joins Rick Martin as the only other player in franchise history to record at least 20 goals and 50 points in each of his first five NHL seasons.

He is the seventh player in franchise history to represent the team in at least three NHL All-Star Games, joining Martin (7), Perreault (6), Dominik Hasek (5), Mike Ramsey (4), Phil Housley (3) and Mogilny (3).

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: You could win a signed Jack Eichel jersey in honor of #NHLAllStar week! Details: https://t.co/0N0BsU1iPU pic.twitter.com/5UJMAm2Gm2

Here are the highlights of Eichel's first two All-Star appearances: 


2018 (Tampa)

Eichel, competing in his first Skills competition, took part in the Fastest Skater event, which kicked off the evening. 

Going seventh out of eight, Eichel finished his heat in 13.828 seconds, just .249 seconds behind then-leader Brayden Point.

Looking back on his lap, Eichel said he would've tried a few things differently if given another opportunity.

"I tried to jump the gun. I wanted a good jump and I ended up kind of double taking. Your path is a big thing. I didn't really do any homework on it. You'd probably like to take the turns a little bit wider to keep your speed and I think I tried to cut it a little too tight, maybe. It worked against me. But it was fun. It was good."

Connor McDavid, the defending champion, was last to go and won the event with a time of 13.454 seconds. 

Instagram from @buffalosabres: #NHLAllStar with the boys! 🤙 | via @jackeichel11

One highlight during Eichel's first All-Star Game that will be replayed over and over is the celebration concocted by Eichel and Auston Matthews during the Atlantic Division's semifinal game against the Metropolitan Division at Amalie Arena on Sunday.

Matthews had a goal disallowed on Monday in a Maple Leafs game against Colorado, so when he scored later in that game, he looked at the referee and signaled "goal" just as the official would.

Fast forward to Sunday night. Right before the faceoff following a disallowed goal by Erik Karlsson (a replay challenge deemed it offside), Matthews came up with a plan. 

"He said, 'Hey, if we score here, let's both point at the net,'" Eichel said. "…We were kind of just like, 'Oh, we better score on this shift so we can do it.' Luckily we did."

Tweet from @NHLGIFs: Can't get over the form on the goal signals from these guys. #NHLAllStarGame caliber indeed. pic.twitter.com/8FSIOmnzXQ

The Sabres leading scorer also helped set up this jaw-dropping play featuring two behind-the-back passes:

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: 😱😱😱 pic.twitter.com/9QVWfcvrt0

That assist was one of three points that Eichel recorded during the All-Star Game. He had a goal and two assists in that semifinal game.


2019 (San Jose)

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: .@Jackeichel15 comes in second in Fastest Skater (13.582)! pic.twitter.com/myBYVVijji 

Eichel finished his Fastest Skater lap at the 2019 Skills in 13.582 seconds, which held the lead until Connor McDavid stepped up as the last of eight skaters. It made for a compelling finish, but McDavid posted a time of 13.378 to win the event for the third straight year.

"The first half I thought I had a chance," Eichel said. "He might've pulled away there at the end and got in. I thought I had a good chance to put myself on top, but you come up a little short. It's a little frustrating, I mean I'm a competitive guy, so you want to win everything you do."

Eichel's time was .246 seconds faster than his lap last year, when he finished third behind McDavid and Brayden Point.

Video: MET@ATL: Pastrnak sets up Eichel's sweet goal

It was a short outing for the Atlantic Division, but that didn't stop Eichel and Jeff Skinner from leaving their marks on the 2019 NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center. 

Eichel and Skinner both scored goals in the Atlantic's 7-4 loss to the Metropolitan Division, which resulted in an early exit in the 3-on-3 tournament. The Metro went on to win the event with a 10-5 win over the Central Division in the final. 

Neither of the players dwelled on the result when they shared the podium afterward. 

"I mean you're competitive and I'm no different," Eichel said. "I want to win. But it's also fun and you're trying to enjoy yourself. It just wasn't the Atlantic's night this year."

Eichel and Skinner spent the contest on a line with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak, and the trio found quick chemistry. Eichel put the Atlantic on the board, catching a feed from Pastrnak in the slot and burying a backhand shot past Henrik Lundqvist.

This night, however, was a chance to soak in time spent among the game's elite.

"Just being a fan of the game, you're a fan of the best players in the world and they're all out there," Eichel said. "It's a lot of fun being out there."

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