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Sabres fall to Flyers in Eichel's absence

Captain was scratched with upper-body injury following warmups

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

PHILADELPHIA - With Jack Eichel sidelined shortly before puck drop, the Buffalo Sabres never found their footing in a 6-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. 

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said Eichel's ailment evolved during warmups. It was announced he would miss the contest with an upper-body injury roughly 10 minutes prior to puck drop. 

In addition to Eichel, the Sabres also lost forwards Johan Larsson and Evan Rodrigues to injuries. Larsson left with an upper-body injury after completing his final shift with 16:48 remaining in the second period; Rodrigues was helped off the ice after taking a slap shot to his left leg with 16:52 left in the third. 

Krueger said all three players were still being assessed after the game. 


The Sabres fell behind 6-0 during the first two periods in Eichel's absence. Victor Olofsson tipped a Rasmus Dahlin shot on the power play to put them on the board with 8:25 remaining in the third. 

James van Riemsdyk scored twice for the Flyers, who also received goals from, Mikhail Vorobyev, Matt Niskanen, Ivan Provorov, and Tyler Pitlick.   

"We're disappointed with those 40 minutes," Krueger said. "I'm not going to paint anything pretty or make excuses here. We slid off the rails after the first goal against and didn't get back on it, really. There was no need for them to push hard in the third, so it's difficult to evaluate that period. 

"We will look hard at it. For sure, we're not happy with what's happened here today. But, it's one game, it's two points, and it's the bounce back that really is now going to be the measure of our character."

The Sabres played a tightly contested game for the first 13 minutes, with few scoring chances for either side. Vorobyev lofted a shot that went in off the stick of Conor Sheary - dressed as a last-minute replacement for Eichel - with 6:56 left in the opening period. 

The Flyers tripled their lead in just over two minutes. Kevin Hayes made a no-look pass to set up van Riemsdyk as he cut across the net for his first goal, then an unsuccessful challenge for goalie interference prompted a Flyers power play that concluded with Niskanen burying a Hayes feed from the right circle.

"They didn't have a scoring chance until we put that one in our net," Krueger said. "… We were actually pretty happy with the way the group came out and initiated the game. We got the building quiet like we wanted to, and then very disappointed that we let it get away like that."

Video: BUF Recap: Olofsson scores in loss; Eichel sits out

Defenseman Jake McCabe said he felt the tide begin to turn after van Riemsdyk's goal made it 2-0. 

"That was when I was more disappointed than anything because our response after that was we came into our shell and gave them way too much time and space the rest of the game for them to make plays," he said. 

The Flyers began another barrage at 8:20 of the third, this time when Provorov delivered a shot from the point through traffic on the power play. Pitlick later tapped his own rebound in off the stick of Henri Jokiharju, then van Riemsdyk's power-play goal deflected in off the skate of Rasmus Ristolainen. 

Philadelphia finished the night 3-for-5 on the power play. 

"The puck seemed to be bouncing in some strange directions but we also lost position a few times," Krueger said. "When Larsson went down, with arguably two centermen out that are important in our game plan, I thought the guys tried to fill in there but it seemed like chances were going in too quickly on us. 

"Again, there's not much really pretty that I can say about this whole situation. We got slapped hard today. They played very, very well and saw the opportunity and took it and we have to be angry about it, but use that anger for energy in the right way and that's what we'll do."

The Sabres will practice at home on Friday, then have two more games before the Christmas break. The first is against Los Angeles at KeyBank Center on Saturday afternoon.

"It's over. It's done and over with," Kyle Okposo said. "Obviously, you feel bad about it tonight, but we've got the Kings coming into our building on Saturday and that's it. It's one game, you move on, come to work tomorrow, you get better, and I promise you we won't come out like that on Saturday."


Eichel's streak comes to an end

As far as the NHL record books are concerned, Eichel's absence brought his point streak to an end at 17 games - one shy of matching Gilbert Perreault's Sabres record. The NHL records individual streaks in terms of consecutive team games played. 

In those 17 games, Eichel compiled 31 points - the same amount Perreault had during his 18-game run in 1971. That total led the league within that timeframe, as did Eichel's 16 goals and plus-17 rating. It ends as the longest streak in the NHL this season. 


Up next

The Sabres return home to host the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday afternoon. Coverage on MSG begins at 12:30 p.m., or you can listen to the game on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 1. 

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