The timetable for Jack Eichel to return from his high ankle sprain is four to six weeks. With just seven weeks left in a season where the Sabres are flirting with the worst record in the NHL, is there even a point in putting the franchise player back on the ice?
Phil Housley, the Sabres’ head coach, says the team still has a reason to fight.
"We've got a lot to prove this season still. We've got a lot of games home here left, we want to win these games not only for our fans, but to build on things," he says.
Housley says Eichel's absence is a chance for other players to build on the bigger opportunity they'll be given.
Would it be great to see a jump in Ryan O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart, and Kyle Okposo's play? Yes — but they're not the ones who need evaluating for the future.
Nick Baptiste was called up Sunday from Rochester after the news of Eichel’s high ankle sprain was confirmed. This is Baptiste’s third stint with the big club this season and could be his opportunity to prove he belongs in Buffalo.
He has the speed the team needs, but it has to translate into production. He has just four goals and assists in 22 career NHL games.
Evan Rodriguez is another one who could step up and help fill the void left by Eichel, his college teammate. He, too, needs to show the Sabres his time with the Amerks is over.
So far, Rodriguez has been making a compelling case, with 10 points in 27 games since and early December call-up.