Published by hockeybuzz.com, 1-5-2017
Ryan O'Reilly was complaining of stomach illness on Christmas Eve morning. After it persisted through the day he consulted with his doctor later that night and a few hours later he was under the knife for an emergency appendectomy on Christmas Day. The original time-frame for O'Reilly's return to action was two to three weeks.
Eleven days later, O'Reilly's rarin' to go and it looks as if he'll be in the lineup for tonight's matchup at Chicago against the Blackhawks.
An appendectomy is routine these days with an incision that's only a couple of inches wide. The difficult part is the healing of the incision in the abdomen. Recovery time varies but O'Reilly seems to have healed incredibly fast. He was skating earlier this week and joined the team for practice on Tuesday before the Sabres left for New York to take on the Rangers.
With his team in Chicago, O'Reilly was cleared in Buffalo by doctors and hopped on a plane to Chicago to join his team mates. Much to the pleasant surprise (or "schocking surprise," as head coach Dan Bylsma put it,) O'Reilly was a full participant in yesterday's practice and after a conference call with all parties involved, was eventually cleared to play.
According to WGR550's Paul Hamilton, O'Reilly was on the ice for the optional skate today and probably most importantly, was taking face offs. According to Hamilton, "O'Reilly said he was cleared and will play.
Because today was an optional skate, one would assume that yesterday's lineup at practice will be the on that Bylsma uses tonight against the Hawks. The Sabres had one of their most complete performances of the season against the Rangers and that included another strong effort by Sam Reinhart at center. Reinhart was moved to center to take O'Reilly's spot and looks as if he's at home there.
With Jack Eichel takin the top center spot and Reinhart No. 2, O'Reilly practiced centering the third line. To make room for him, Derek Grant was playing third-line left wing at practice yesterday while Zemgus Girgensons was bumped to the fourth line at center. Of note, Will Carrier is ill and missed practice yesterday. He played a strong game as Girgensons left wing on the third line with Brian Gionta on the right side.
The lines from yesterday's practice from Sabres.com:
Marcus Foligno-Eichel-Kyle Okposo
Evander Kane-Reinhart-Justin Bailey
Nicolas Deslauriers-Girgensons-Matt Moulson
Last blog I surmised that it would take at least a few games for O'Reilly to get back into the lineup and that if the team continued to play well with the same structure they had against the NY Rangers, O'Reilly and the Sabres might be best served having him as their No. 1 left wing. His quick return put the kibosh on that theory.
It's good to have him back in the lineup and the Sabres now are pretty strong down the middle.
We'll see how it works out tonight.
Happy Birthday Zemgus Girgensons....now move on down to the fourth line.
That's pretty much how you can take it as Girgensons came off of his best game and was rewarded with a trip to the fourth line after clearly his best game of the season. Girgensons scored the opening goal on a backhand over the shoulder of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and played an impressive two-way game for the full 15-plus minutes he was on the ice.
An injury to Johan Larsson gave him an opportunity to show what he could do as the team's third line center and Bylsma was marginally impressed. After practice yesterday Bylsma moved away from the school-girl giddiness of O'Reilly's return and enentually was asked about Girgensons and said this to the gathered media about Girgensons play at New York:
"I thought he stepped into the checking line role and embraced it," said the coach. "Against [the Rangers two top lines] I thought those three, Zemgus, Will and Brian, did a real good job [defensively] and also they added to the offensive end of it."
Bylsma was asked if the game against the Rangers could be a springboard game for Girgensons to become a meaningful contributor to the team after having difficulties with Bylsma's system and the coach replied, "I think you can use last night's game as that for him. I think that was his best game, his most complete game and it's one we've got to keep getting from him."
Yup, gotta love the motivational tool of watching a player with no goals practice on the line above you after you played your best game of the season.
Oh yeah, today is really Girgensons' birthday. Happy friggen' birthday to you. The lines from practice could change but it's a real kick in the crotch to have something like that happen.
Word from Sabres.com is that Anders Nilsson will get his second start in a row tonight in Chicago. Nilsson was good in net against the Rangers but didn't need to make too many big-time saves for Buffalo.
According to Hamilton, starter Robin Lehner "could play but has some minor bumps and bruises from his last few starts.