After 21 games, out of the lineup while rehabbing a high ankle sprain, Magic Hands Jack Eichel returned to the starting lineup last night in Ottawa and had a power play goal and an assist to help the Sabres to a 5-4 win. Future captain Ryan O’Reilly had two goals including a sweet backhand he knocked in after his helmet had been knocked off. He is such a great leader for this team.
After a solid first period where you could tell the team was energized by Eich’s return, the dreaded second period lull from last season returned, and Ottawa grabbed some momentum. The Sabres got a lucky break after a series of home-barn calls for Ottawa. Chris Neil (again, how is he still in the NHL) skated through the crease and made contact with Nilsson’s glove as the shot was coming in. The refs correctly ruled goaltender interference and the Sabres’ 3-2 lead was maintained.
Robin Lehner left the game towards the end of the first period with what has been described as a hip injury and is currently listed as day-to-day. I’m not going to lie, I am looking forward to getting an extended look at Nilsson while Lehner is injured. After a shaky end to the first period, Nilsson kept it together and was able to keep enough pucks out of the net to get the win. It’s got to be pretty tough to come into a game when the starter gets injured and Nilsson did look a little shaky at times, losing track of the puck and unfortunately giving up a couple of soft goals.
Final Takes from the game:
Our Power Play looked ridiculous with Eichel, O’Reilly and Okposo on the ice together. We are finally seeing what Tim Murray envisioned this summer when he brought Okposo in. Get ready guys, the fun is finally starting!
Our Power Play looked ridiculous with Eichel, O’Reilly and Okposo on the ice together.
I’ve talked before about the contributions our youngsters are making, and want to continue to heap praise on these guys. Fedun, Nelson and Carrier all look comfortable out there, with Carrier moving up to the top line with O’Reilly and Okposo. He plays a strong game and at 6’ 2” 220, he’s a big body in front of the net and opens up the ice for Okposo and O’Reilly to make plays. We really saw O’Reilly flourish in that open space last night. Carrier took a big hip check along the wall and was flipped over, but immediately got up and was unfazed. Rob Ray commented that the kid needs to learn how to stick to the wall to avoid taking big open ice hits, and he will, but I really like his game. He has been pretty impressive in his short time up with the big club.
The Sabres have a tough three game stretch coming up with the Rangers and Bruins at home, and then on the road again at Washington, before returning home to face Conor McDavid and the Oilers in what should be an exciting matchup between he and Eichel. I am really looking forward to that one next Tuesday night.
Next game- Sabres vs. Rangers, Thursday, December 1, 7:00 PM, MSG+, WGR 550