BUFFALO – About halfway through this morning’s practice, Sabres captain Jack Eichel stepped out on the ice and joined his teammates.
While Eichel, who has missed two games with an upper-body injury, did not take any line rushes inside KeyBank Center, his presence is a good sign.
The Sabres’ No. 1 center and leading scorer skated a bit as an extra defenseman and also took some reps on the power play.
Coach Phil Housley said the Sabres will know more about Eichel’s status Tuesday.
“Him just coming back and getting the OK to practice was a good sign,” said Housley, whose Sabres host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
Eichel hasn’t played since leaving last Monday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders after taking only four shifts.
“It’s sort of just taking every day, seeing how I feel,” Eichel said after spending about an extra 45 minutes on the ice following practice. “Obviously, it’s not a rush, you don’t want to put yourself in a bad position. You want to make sure you’re comfortable in every situation you put yourself in, myself and the team.”
He added: “I felt good, I’m feeling like myself again.”
Naturally, missing just a week of action has been tough on Eichel, who has compiled a team-best 49 points in 40 games and is the Sabres’ only NHL All-Star.
“You guys know me, I’m a competitive guy,” Eichel said. “I like to be out there every night. It kills me to not be out there, it kills me not to be playing, it kills me not to be out there every day with these guys competing.”
Eichel, of course, could need a full practice before he returns. After Tuesday’s game, the Sabres don’t play again until Friday in Carolina.
In other news, Housley said winger Sam Reinhart missed today’s practice because he is ill. Reinhart did not participate in the team’s skills challenge Sunday.
Meanwhile, Zemgus Girgensons, out the last four games with an upper-body injury, practiced at right wing today beside center Casey Mittelstadt and C.J. Smith.
Housley said Girgensons’ status will be decided Tuesday.
“I really like what Zemgus brought today,” Housley said.
Housley also said defenseman Zach Bogosian had a maintenance day today.