Hang in there Sabres fans, although captain Jack Eichel is out tonight for his third straight game, he did practice with the team and was on the ice for the morning skate today. Fans should be cool with that. Why rush things and have it backfire keeping him out even longer?
The struggles Buffalo had without him in Boston on Saturday were well documented and I'm sure everyone in Sabreland is ready to move on from that. The good news is that despite Buffalo falling out of third place in the Atlantic division, they're still sitting in the second wild card place with 50 points, although that hold is rather tenuous right now as the Montreal Canadiens are only one point behind them.
The thought process on Eichel at this point in time should be to make sure he's ready for the stretch run because the Sabres are going to need him. Sure, Buffalo's 5-8-4 stumble from atop the league to their present position is cause for concern, but even if they lose tonight they'll still be in that second wild card spot.
And speaking of tonight's matchup against the New Jersey Devils, it ain't gonna be a cake walk even though they've struggled this season (16-18-7) after rolling into the playoffs last season as the second wild card with 97 points. The Sabres are only 2-7-1 vs. the Devils in their last 10 and have a sub .500, 4-5-1 record at home. In fact they haven't beaten New Jersey at home since April 1, 2014.
It's gut-check time again for the Sabres. Last game against the Bruins only a handful of skaters and goalie Linus Ullmark came to play so we'll see once again who's capable carrying their own weight.
WGR550 Radio beat reporter Paul Hamilton gave us word on Eichel being out for tonight and he also quoting Sam Reinhart, who missed the last two practices with an illness, as saying he was felling fine and should be back in the lineup. Hamilton also said that Zemgus Girgensons will return for his first game since being placed on injured reserve December 28.
From Sabres.com, this was the lineup at the morning skate minus Reinhart:
53 Jeff Skinner - 17 Vladimir Sobotka - 72 Tage Thompson
49 C.J. Smith - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 28 Zemgus Girgensons
43 Conor Sheary - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 29 Jason Pominville
81 Remi Elie - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
Hutton gets the start after sitting out the last two games in favor of Ullmark, who really played well in both games (1-1-0.) Also interesting to note that head coach Phil Housley changed up all three of his d-pairings while using the same starting six.
With Eichel out for another game there's only one thing to do, and that's hang in there, Sabres fans, we all gonna be killin' it like Gary Clark Jr. when the train finally pulls in.