Late Season Burst, Eichel's Disconnect Headline Locker Room Clean-Out Day One for Sabres
Photo Courtesy of NHL.com
BUFFALO, N.Y. --- The Buffalo Sabres hosted day one of locker clean-out day on Monday morning from the KeyBank Center. The team made some players available to the media, including Kyle Okposo and Jack Eichel.
The 33-year-old assistant captain is still under contract until the 2022-2023 season. But no matter the situation, Okposo hopes to have a couple of years left in the tank.
"I'm on the back nine for sure. When I came back from my neck injury, those last ten games lit a fire under me and playing free, which was great," Okposo said.
While Okposo may be correct, the statistics are not eye-popping. The 15-year NHL veteran had four assists in those last games in April and missed 21 games due to injuries. But despite the rough ending for Sabres, Okposo says the team found a stride under interim head coach Don Granato.
"Donnie wanted us to play a little differently, and I think as a group, we had a number of young guys who started to gain a lot more confidence and started to play a better brand of hockey towards the end," he said.
But many negatives outweigh the positives. Buffalo had an 18-game losing streak lasting over a month and lost their captain Jack Eichel on March 7th due to a neck injury.
However, the 24-year old spoke out about his recovery, which he says has been difficult.
"It's been a tough road for sure, as it's a new and different situation that I am not an expert in. I'm just trying to inform myself as much as possible and meet with as many doctors and get as many opinions as possible," Eichel said.
With your captain off the ice, the disconnect can happen. But there has been some rift between Eichel's camp and the Sabres.
Since Eichel's injury, there have some rumors swirling whether the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft will be traded this summer. During the presser, he did not necessarily shut down those rumors but addressed the disconnect with the Sabres organization and has a personal focus.
"I would say I have been a bit upset with the way things have been handled. There has been a little bit of disconnect from the organization a bit and myself. But for me right now, I think the most important thing for me is to get healthy," he said.
Besides the neck injury, Eichel dealt with other setbacks in the COVID-shortened season, including a broken rib he suffered before training camp and an ankle injury that caused him to miss time. But while the list may be strong, he said the injuries are not an excuse.
"I don't want to make that an excuse for the two goals I had. When I was in the lineup, I did not contribute in plays as well as I needed to play, and that's just the hard truth," Eichel said.
Buffalo continues their locker room clean-out availability on Tuesday morning as Rasmus Dahlin starts it off with the media at 9:50 a.m. and finishing with Dylan Cozens at 11:10 a.m.