Captain Jack Eichel’s upper-body injury will sideline him for “the foreseeable future,” Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said this morning.
“Because of the nature of the injury, we can’t put a fixed date,” Krueger said on a Zoom call. “We’re expecting it to, yeah, go on a little longer.”
Krueger said earlier this week Eichel, 24, would miss a minimum of seven to 10 days.
Eichel appeared to hurt his neck when Casey Cizikas hit him behind the net late in Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders. The NBC broadcast showed him in discomfort on the bench moments later.
Krueger wouldn’t say if Eichel, who has missed the last two games, needs rest or surgery to recover.
“I’d rather not speak on it,” Krueger said.
When a lower-body injury forced the Sabres to scratch Eichel minutes before their game Feb. 25, Krueger said the center hurt himself in the warm-up. Eichel, however, later revealed he was injured Feb. 23 in the Sabres’ 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.
“I think we had some misunderstandings the last time around,” Krueger said. “I’ll be honest with you, there was a lot of misunderstandings in the way we spoke about injuries so far this season. I always tell you the truth and what I know or I don’t tell you. And in this case, I don’t tell you.”
Losing Eichel, the Sabres’ leading scorer with 18 points in 21 games, for an extended period of time would be a massive blow.
The Sabres have fallen apart over the last three weeks, losing nine straight games and 13 of 15 since their COVID-19 pause ended.
Is Krueger concerned Eichel’s injury could be season-ending?
“My focus 100 percent is always on the players that are here and the lineup that is available to us as coaches,” he said. “We are excited about the challenge that we have and believe we have a strong lineup to deal with the adversity. Of course, Jack Eichel is an absolute elite player in this league who drives, when he’s healthy, a lot of the power that makes the Sabres a threat to the other teams on a given night. Now, we need to work together.”
In other news, Krueger said the upper-body injury center Dylan Cozens suffered in Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins will keep him out of tonight’s rematch at KeyBank Center. The rookie filled in for Eichel on the No. 1 line earlier this week.
Krueger also said defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had a maintenance day Friday and will play tonight. The Finn has played eight straight games after recovering from a difficult battle with COVID-19.
“There’s no way we could take him out of a game,” Krueger said. “He is too competitive for that. But it was good for him to have a day of rest and we’re just taking care of his body and making sure that his batteries are loaded up for tonight.”
Update: The Sabres this afternoon recalled defenseman Brandon Davidson from the taxi squad and sent defensemen Henri Jokiharju to the practice group. Jokijarju has played only one of the last four games.