Any hope the Buffalo Sabres may have had about making a quick move up the standings following the holiday break may have taken a massive hit Tuesday as it was announced top-line center Ryan O’Reilly will be out indefinitely following an appendectomy.
According to The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington, O’Reilly underwent the procedure on Christmas Day, and it could mean he misses anywhere from days to weeks depending on how quickly he can rehab the ailment.
As pointed out by Harrington, Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty underwent the same procedure in 2013, and was forced to miss just four games over the course of eight games before he was able to return to action. However, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was out nearly three-times as long with after recovering from his appendectomy in early December.
Losing O’Reilly is an incredibly significant blow for the Sabres, especially given how much time he spends playing at all strengths. A skilled two-way forward, O’Reilly has averaged 21:32 per game this season under coach Dan Bylsma, which is a higher average ice time than all but defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Rasmus Ristolainen.
O’Reilly being sidelined hurts the Sabres well beyond his ability to simply eat ice time, though. Through 27 games, he has seven goals and 18 points, and his rate of 0.67 points per game is less than only Ristolainen’s 0.7 mark this season.
This will be the second time this season the Sabres have been without O’Reilly, as he missed six games earlier in the campaign with a reported abdominal injury. During that stretch, Buffalo went 1-3-2 and were outscored 16-7.
With O’Reilly out, chances are that sophomore Jack Eichel, who has already contributed five goals and eight points in 12 games since returning from an ankle injury, will take over on the top line. He has already seen big ice time in the few games leading up to the holiday break, skating 20-plus minutes in three of four games before the league’s three-day break.
According to Harrington, Eichel was skating between Marcus Foligno and Matt Moulson ahead of the Sabres’ Tuesday meeting with the Detroit Red Wings.
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