Jack Eichel appears poised to make his much-anticipated season debut when the Buffalo Sabres visit the surging Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. Eichel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2015 draft, suffered a high ankle sprain on the eve of the regular season but practiced fully on Monday and, barring a setback, will be in the lineup in Ottawa.
“There’s no real restrictions, so I feel pretty good right now,” Eichel told reporters after Monday’s practice. “I’ve cleared them all.” Eichel’s return cannot come soon enough for Buffalo, which sits in the basement of the Atlantic Division and ranks last in the NHL with 38 goals scored. Meanwhile, the Senators are riding a four-game winning streak and are coming off a 2-0 victory over the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. “One of the best offensive teams in the league and to get a shutout you can’t ask for better,” Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told reporters after his team moved into second place in the Atlantic.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG-B (Buffalo), RDS2, TSN5 (Ottawa)
ABOUT THE SABRES (7-9-5): Eichel, drafted one spot behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, lived up to the hype during his rookie season with 24 goals and 56 points, including three goals and a pair of assists in four matchups against Ottawa. Eichel centered Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart while also seeing time on the power play at Monday’s practice. “His skating’s good. He’s beating guys, stepping off guys, creating room and separation,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma told reporters. “He looks good to me.”
ABOUT THE SENATORS (14-7-1): Veteran netminder Craig Anderson has drawn effusive praise from his teammates for maintaining his focus while his wife is battling cancer. The 35-year-old Anderson was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week after allowing five goals in his last four starts while registering his third shutout of the season against the Rangers. Forward Mark Stone extended a hot streak of his own with a power-play tally against New York and has scored three times over the last four games.
1. Sabres G Robin Lehner is 2-0-2 with a 1.30 goals-against average versus Ottawa, including two goals allowed in two starts this season.
2. Anderson is 13-6-1 with a 2.19 GAA in 21 starts against the Sabres.
3. Buffalo has been limited to one regulation goal in eight of its last 10 games, including a 2-1 shootout loss to Ottawa on Nov. 9.
PREDICTION: Senators 3, Sabres 2