Another day of practice is in the books for Sam Reinhart and Nicolas Deslauriers, and both have responded well enough to where it appears they'll be ready to play for the Buffalo Sabres in Montreal on Wednesday night.
It's impossible to say it without wanting to knock on wood (as Sabres coach Dan Bylsma is known to do), but the Sabres might just be one Tyler Ennis short of having their full lineup for their first game back from the All-Star break.
"I think that's good for us and then you look at our locker room, we've been pretty prone to injuries this year," Jack Eichel said after practice on Tuesday. "You see [Deslauriers] on the ice, he brings a lot of energy to our team, he's a key component. You see Sam's getting healthy, obviously we all know how good he can be … We're starting to come around."
With 32 games remaining and considerable ground to make up in the standings, it's also a reason for optimism. As it stands prior to Tuesday's games, Buffalo is 11 points out from the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
That's a tall order for a young team, but they're aware of the task at hand. With hopes of health coinciding with wins, they've decided to simplify their approach beginning with their game against the Canadiens.
"Win one game at a time, that's all you can do," Eichel said. "You can only focus on your next game and your next opponent. I think that's what we want to do and win as many of these games as we can and see where that puts us. I think we got behind the eight ball a little bit and we've been a little inconsistent. I think we can work at that consistency here and see how we are at the end of the year."
Ryan O'Reilly, who spent the weekend participating as a first All-Star in Nashville, agreed with Eichel's sentiment.
"It's going to be tough because we're going to want to look at the standings and see where we are," he said. "But we have to approach every game like it's our last one and give everything we have because it's not going to be easy to climb out of this hole we're in and get back in the hunt."
O'Reilly recognizes that, if you look at individual games rather than the overall record, it's a sign that the Sabres aren't as far away as they might seem. Fourteen of Buffalo's 30 losses this season have been by just one goal; three others were lost by two goals thanks to empty-netters.
Cutting down on the little mistakes that lead to goals for the opponent and keep their own goals out of the net could make the difference in those close games.
"For myself those are probably the most frustrating ones," O'Reilly said. "That's when you come off the ice and know it's inches, it's a couple of small plays that affect the entire game. But knowing that, you know that you're close. You know that there are some little details that we could've changed to change the outcome.
"Going forth, we know that we can do good things. It's just going to take a little more from every single one of us."
Despite the changes made to the lines with Reinhart and Deslauriers' returns, one pair of forwards that remained consistent was that of Eichel and Zemgus Girgensons. Eichel assisted Girgensons for two goals against the Rangers on Jan. 25 before scoring two of his own the following day.
"I think we just work well together," Eichel said. "He works really hard on the ice. He's really skilled; he's strong, really strong in the corners. He's really versatile, I think there are a lot of really good things about his game and for me he's a good guy to have on my left side, right side wherever he is."
Here's how the rest of the lineup looked on Tuesday:
88 Jamie McGinn – 90 Ryan O''Reilly – 23 Sam Reinhart
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 15 Jack Eichel – 82 Marcus Foligno
9 Evander Kane – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson – 17 David Legwand – 44 Nicolas Deslauriers
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
47 Zach Bogosian – 3 Mark Pysyk
29 Jake McCabe – 46 Cody Franson
6 Mike Weber – 25 Carlo Colaiacovo
40 Robin Lehner
31 Chad Johnson
Power Play 1
McGinn – O'Reilly – Reinhart
Eichel – Ristolainen
Power Play 2
Kane – Girgensons – Gionta
Bogosian – Cody Franson