Housley won't say when Eichel will be back

Jack Eichel practiced for the first time in four weeks after an ankle injury

Paul Hamilton
March 13, 2018 - 1:59 pm

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The way Phil Housley talked last week, I would’ve been surprised if Jack Eichel didn’t practice on Tuesday.

The team had had two days off and Eichel returned with Evan Rodrigues and Seth Griffith. Kyle Okposo remained off with a concussion. Housley said, “You can tell he’s been off awhile, but I think halfway through the practice, I thought he looked really good.”

As far as when he can play Housley said, “I still don’t want to put a timetable on it and he just had a tough practice with some contact, so we’ll see how he reacts after today, evaluate it tomorrow and just take it day-by-day.”

Eichel had been out four weeks with a high-ankle sprain and did every single drill, but at times looked careful to me. It looked like he was just making sure he could do everything asked of him. Eichel said, “I knew what to expect from last year’s injury and the other thing is, I know what to expect with it, you know you’re going to tweak it and there are going to be days where it feels great and there are going to be days where it doesn’t feel that great, so you just try to manage it as well as you can.”

“I don’t really know, I don’t want to put a timetable or pick a specific game. I’d like to play as quickly as I can, but it’s more about how I feel and how my ankle reacts to practice. Mentally you’re back already, you wish you were playing a few weeks ago, but in the essence of things, you want to take care of things and make sure you feel healthy enough to make an impact.”

Eichel said last year’s ankle injury was a little bit different from this year’s, but he said he was able to use the experience to figure out what worked well.

Eichel missed almost two months to start the season last year, so having it happen again of course was frustrating, “I’m a bit frustrated and mentally it wears on you that you’re not playing and you’re not out there competing.

“I’d like to think that everything is preventable, but looking at it, it’s a freak accident and I’m honestly probably a little bit lucky that it was only an ankle sprain.”

Eichel said he thought he did everything he could to prevent an ankle injury last summer, but he’s going to do it again this summer, “You look into everything, your skates, edges, so I’ll do a lot of digging this summer on how to help myself.”

Eichel got tangled up with a guy he knows very well. Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk played with Eichel at BU. He said, “I’m very tight with Grizzy and he felt pretty bad about the incident. You can’t fault him, he’s a very good friend of mine and he’s playing hard and trying to make a play and we end up getting tangled up and he came over after the game and saw me and there are no hard feelings.”

Linus Ullmark was called up from Rochester giving them three healthy goalies. Housley said he’s here, because he earned the chance, “We felt it was a good time to call Linus up. He certainly deserves to be up here.

“He’s going to get an opportunity, when that is, I don’t know, but we’re going to continue to work through this with our coaching staff and Jason to see the best fit.”

I’m sure Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson aren’t happy that Ullmark is here. Housley said, “I know I wouldn't like it. If you’re a true competitor I think our goalies feel the same, but they understand the situation of where we’re at and our evaluation of all of our players.”

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