Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

After Opening Night, Wondering What Might Have Been

It's strange to talk about reaching a low point before the hockey season even starts, but that's where it seems we're at in Buffalo.

The Sabres were only minutes away from ending practice yesterday when Jack Eichel got tangled up with Zemgus Girgensons during a drill in front of the net, and then there was screaming as Buffalo's franchise player fell to the ice.

While fellow young phenoms Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid were turning opening night on its ear with dazzling performances, Eichel -- well, I don't know what he was doing but I'm going to assume it didn't involve walking.

Watching those two great young players last night brought about a somber tone. I felt like the little kid watching the others play with their beautiful, bright shiny toys while mine was broken in pieces on the floor.

It's hard to imagine a hockey nightmare in Buffalo that's much worse. And it makes it even tougher when contemplating the joy felt by fans of the Leafs witnessing Matthews break a debut record with four goals, and thinking of the fun had by Oilers fans enjoying the extraordinary display of hockey from McDavid, whom I'm ready to declare right now is already the best player in the NHL.

What could Eichel have done to try to top that tonight against a Canadiens team deflated by the non-appearance of its ill superstar goaltender? We'll never know.

Sure, the kid is very young and for all we know a fast healer. But any extended absence by Buffalo's best player is enough to pretty much kick their already questionable playoff chances to the curb. And from what we know and have been told about the difficulty with high ankle sprains, it'll be a miracle if he's playing in a game before Thanksgiving. For what it's worth, Robin Lehner had the same type of injury last season and was out over three months.

(Update: Dan Bylsma said moments ago that the injury is "moderate" and the time frame is "certainly more weeks than days".)

Bylsma, who has adamantly said previously that the Sabres can be a playoff team this season, will need to find a way to get his team to pick up enough points to tread water and stick around in the race while Eichel is mending. This will involve giving guys like Marcus Foligno and Johan Larsson top-six minutes.

Call me crazy, but that's a lot to ask.

dd@kuklaskorner.com

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Filed in: | The Sabres Observer | Permalink
  Tags: eichel+injury

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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

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Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]