Tuesday, January 30, 2018

All-Star weekend closes as the trade deadline inches closer

Published by hockeybuzz.com, 1-29-2018

If Jack Eichel continues to up his game like he has over his short career thus far, he should be a perennial NHL All-Star for years to come. As of now, Eichel's point/game pace (49 points in 49 games) has him ahead of where he was last year (.93 ppg) and is far above his rookie season of .69 ppg. With 20 goals in 49 games the 21 yr. old is on pace for 33 goals this season or .40 goals/game, a hair above his .393 g/gm last season.

And there's still upside

Eichel was in Tampa Bay, Florida over the weekend participating in the festivities along with the best the game has to offer. He and his fellow All-Stars from the Atlantic Division, which included Lightning players from the host city, dropped a 5-2 decision to the Pacific Division All-Stars in the final game of the day. Although there was $1 million on the line for the winning team, the 3-on-3 format allowed for a highly skilled game of shinny high on entertainment value for the fans.

All-Star weekend is a break for those not participating and a celebration of hockey for those attending. The regular season begins again on Tuesday and Eichel was in the moment about what had just transpired. "Obviously we get caught up in our game (during the regular season,)" said Eichel to the gathered media after the final All-Star game of the evening. "But this is a weekend to kind of relax and take a step back and realize where you are and kind of admire all these great players in our game."

However, where he and his fellow Buffalo Sabres are upon returning to regular season action on Tuesday leaves much to be desired. The Sabres have been near the bottom of the league all season and will head into their final 33 games in 30th place with a 14-26-9 record, despite a three-game western Canada sweep just prior to the break.

With the playoffs a very faint statistical hope and the trade deadline nearing, changes are on the horizon. Buffalo has a number of pending unrestricted free agents including a prime one in left wing Evander Kane, who's trade seems to be not a matter of "if," but more like, "what will the return be?" Other UFA's of interest may include forwards Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Nolan along with defenseman Josh Gorges, while fellow blueliner Justin Falk will also be a free agent at season's end. We Sabres fans might also be on the lookout for moves featuring two restricted free agents--starting goalie Robin Lehner and forward Sam Reinhart.

The Sabres begin a five-game homestand tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils. Also in that run is a visit from the Florida Panthers on February 1, visits from the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks as well the NY Islanders. In all there are 14 Sabres games before the February 26 trade deadline.

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