Why Post-Eichel Sabers Are Ready for the NHL Main Stage

Why Post-Eichel Sabers Are Ready for the NHL Main Stage

Jack Eichel’s latest return to Buffalo is more than just Jack Eichel.

The former captain of the Cypress is a headliner. What’s happening in Buffalo this season is beyond the surface.

When the league’s flagships, the Vegas Golden Knights, duel on Thursday, it will be the second time Eshel has faced his old team since their messy divorce ended in November 2021. From the next chapter – and better -, a slow but steady build back into being a contender.

Executing that vision has been Buffalo’s mission this season with a respectable 7-6-0 start. That’s what makes Thursday night so important to the Sabers – not as a game against Eichel, but as a game that really matters to them.

“I think we embrace that. Like, let’s embrace this match,” said Buffalo captain Kyle Okposo. “It’s a big game, and we haven’t played big games in the last 10 years because we haven’t played in the playoffs. Let’s try to build something where we can play in these games and make them mean something and rise to the occasion like the few times we did last year. Let’s keep going. I don’t think That there is more pressure, but let’s rise to the challenge.”

Buffalo was in a different place when the first Circus Eshel made landfall on March 10. Cypress finished fifth at the bottom of the standings at 19-32-8 while Vegas scored mid-set 32-23-4. However, the hometown team took action in a 3-1 win which included Eshel being booed by Sabers faithful – and it was only during his tribute video.

Whether it was poor reception or a poor result, Eichel didn’t hold back in the post-game comments that fans are bound to remember on Thursday night.

“It was the loudest sound I’ve ever heard in this place,” Eshel said last spring. “Really. It only took me seven years for them to get into the game.”

And those boo birds?

“They just have to [have been] Boos because they wish you were still here.”

Eichel has long since left Buffalo after a turbulent six-year relationship and a bitter split. The Sabers had high hopes when they chose him, and they envisioned an emphatic star position to lead the renewal of the franchise. This never happened. During Eichel’s tenure—including three seasons as captain—Sabers failed to finish above .500, let alone make an appearance in the postseason.

The lack of results on ice was frustrating enough. The breaking point for both sides was more personal. It arose from Eshel’s neck injury in early 2021; He wanted to fix the disc problem with an artificial replacement surgery that had never been done before on an NHL player. Buffalo wouldn’t allow it, and Eshel didn’t budge, so Cypress general manager Kevin Adams stripped Eshel of the captain in September 2021, then traded him with the Golden Knights for a package that included Alex Tosh and Peyton Cripps.

Vegas immediately gave Eshel the go-ahead for his operation. After a lengthy rehab, Eshel debuted with the Golden Knights in February. A month later, he was leaving Buffalo with no points and with a minus one rating against his old club.

Eichel’s successful start to the season – six goals and 15 points in 14 games – tracks how good the Golden Knights are, leading to their current eight-game winning streak and rising to the top of the NHL standings at 11-2-0. His hot hand could add more From the spice to the impending match.

Buffalo was striding in the opposite direction, falling three times in a row after coming out 7-3-0 out of the gate. It’s another reason why Thursday carries so much weight. The saber remembers how Eckel was greeted the last time; This passion plays into their hands. But it’s going head-to-head with the best of the NHL that could possibly be the most sluggish.

“Everyone knows what happened last year,” Okposo said. “We’re going to play it by ear and try to feed the fans. We know people are clearly passionate about this game. We’re excited to get into our game and show that we can be competitive and that we can play with some of the best teams in the league. Make no mistake about it, that’s what these guys do as they play.” Very well and they are the first team in the league. So we have a big test and hopefully we can use that energy from the crowd.”

Could be without granato I feel a trap coming.

He didn’t like how the Sabers trained on Monday after losing games on the road to Carolina and Tampa Bay. Buffalo had Arizona on Tuesday ahead of their games against Vegas and Boston. Granato knew it would be easy to overlook the wolves. And in doing so, the Saber lost 4-1 to create a three-game spiral loop that lasted all season.

Which leads, aptly, to confront the leaders of the Pacific and Atlantic Division back-to-back.

“I didn’t like it,” Granato said of the Arizona game’s place on the schedule. “Now, did I not like it, did I carry any negative energy in it? That’s something I have to look at as well. You can come back after that game and maybe you can say, ‘I told you so,’ because it was played the way it was. That’s it. Which we wish we could have done better at.”

Hard lessons are part of the learning process. As well as creating – and then sticking to – an identity. Granato’s focus is on downloading that into his players, so that it becomes second nature regardless of whether their opponent is soaring or reeling.

Vegas is undoubtedly in the previous category. Eichel was a major contributor to making it so. Granato, like Okposo, thinks these are positive things for the Sabers. Give the buffalo a jolt to get rid of some of the current slack.

We don’t know what the environment will be [on Thursday]”But it can be quite energizing,” said Granato. “That’s cool. It’s interesting. It’s good for our guys. You have to admit that you are two teams that have made a big trade with really good hockey players going both ways. Anyone who plays against their old team always wants to put in a good performance. It breaks a monotony.” [82-game season]. But the outcome will be determined by who can access and play their game. I think our guys are totally committed and focused on that. I think the flip side of that is just fun and flavor.”

Eichel’s trade allowed for one true homecoming, and that was Tuch. The player grew up from central New York and admired the Sabers. This season is heading towards a potential career year already, with seven goals and 11 points in 13 games. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Krebs is slowly coming in with two passes in 11 games. It’s all part of the process.

Granato didn’t know what to expect from Tuch or Krebs when Eichel was traded. Looking back, he has no complaints about how this trade worked, or what they’ve added since then.

“I’m really happy where they are,” Granato said. “I can’t remember my expectations when we first got them, but I feel they have contributed so much to our team and the direction we’re going, and they are both players who will grow with our group that’s there.

Taj Thompson does not do that Who cares across the ice.

Eichel or no Eichel. There is one work to be done.

“I try not to focus on all that [hysteria]He said, “Our aim is just to focus on the match, what we have to do to win. The outside noise is just outside noise. It is a good challenge, and I think we are ready for it.”

Eric Comrie agrees. The Cypress Network manager can sense that during Wednesday’s training. Buffalo’s bravado was showing. Comrie was pleased to welcome her back.

“You start to see the building of trust,” he said. “And morale comes back a little bit, and everyone starts getting more positive, and that’s when things start to click again. Always, at first, your attitude starts to go downhill, and then all of a sudden, your game starts to go downhill and then all of a sudden, your attitude starts to come back and your attitude starts to come off. So I think it’s a big correlation between positivity and positive things that happen on the ice.”

All Buffalo has to do now is translate that against Vegas. The Sabers have dealt with a few injuries recently, including Rasmus Dahlin (who missed the Tampa Bay game with an upper body ailment), Matthias Samuelsson (lower body) and Henry Joqueharjo (a broken face). This latest stretch has given Buffalo his first taste of adversity this season. It will not be the last.

But the saber has not forgotten their identity and is not planning either of them, regardless of the former friends who are now waiting in the wings.

“I think we have a really good team,” Thompson said. “I think everyone here believes in that too. So I don’t think it’s surprising to anyone in this room that we’re going out hot. We’re going through a bit of a slump now, but we’ve had a good chance.” [against Vegas] To get back to the winning column, so we just have to turn the page and move on.”

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