Eichel Suffers Ankle Injury, Gretzky Returns to Oilers, Bergeron to Miss Opener & More News

Eichel Out Indefinitely After Injury in Practice

The Buffalo Sabres will be without two of the team’s top-six forwards to open the 2016-17 season.

Jack Eichel suffered a high-ankle sprain during an awkward play in front of the net at a team practice on Wednesday morning. The Sabres have not given a timetable for his return, but they expect he will miss a minimum of four to six weeks and perhaps longer, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons was entangled with Eichel as the injury occurred and spoke about the play after practice.

“I was just trying to get the puck and we got tangled. He just fell awkward,” said Girgensons, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl.

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Jack Eichel (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Eichel is entering his second NHL season after a rookie campaign where he lead the Sabres in goal scoring with 24 and finished second on the team with 56 points in 81 games.

The injury is a devastating blow to the Sabres as the team prepares to start the regular season against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. The team will also be without forward Kyle Okposo who injured his knee after being hit by a puck at a practice last Monday. Okposo signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Sabres this offseason as an unrestricted free agent and is expected to add to the team’s offense.

The Sabres may also be without forward Ryan O’Reilly for Thursday’s home opener as he is unlikely to play, according to Vogl. He left a preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes with a lower-body injury last week but returned to practice on Wednesday.

With injuries to three of the team’s most important offensive contributors, players like Girgensons and Sam Reinhart will be looked upon to take bigger roles with the club.

Gretzky Returns to Edmonton Oilers

The Great One is back in Edmonton!

The Edmonton Oilers announced that Wayne Gretzky has joined Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) as Partner and Vice Chairman on Wednesday. The news comes as the Oilers prepare to open the season against the Calgary Flames and play its first game at Rogers Place.

Gretkzy, 55, returns to the NHL in an executive role for the first time since he left the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009 after working in the capacities of head coach and the director of hockey operations with the club.

“I’m proud to be back as an Oiler and hope to be part of another Stanley Cup,” Gretzky said during a panel discussion after the announcement was made. Gretzky won four Stanley Cups with the Oilers as a player.

“I love the game. I want to be part of the National Hockey League. Everything I have in my life is because of the NHL and I’m thrilled to be back,” Gretzky said.

Oilers owner Daryl Katz explained that Gretzky will be working alongside he and CEO Bob Nicholson overseeing the business side of OEG, but Peter Chiarelli will continue to manage the Oilers.

“This is Peter Chiarelli’s team and he calls the shots,” said Katz, according to The Canadian Free Press.

Earlier this offseason, the NHL named Gretzky the its ambassador for next season’s centennial festivities as the league celebrates its 100th year.

The Oilers have been in the news a lot in recent days between naming Connor McDavid as the youngest captain in NHL history and trading former first overall pick Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues last week and free agent Kris Versteeg opting to sign for the provincial rival Flames on Tuesday.

The team hopes to start the beginning of a new era, with McDavid leading the way in 2016-17.

Bergeron Out for Bruins Opener

The Boston Bruins will be without forward Patrice Bergeron to open the regular season as he is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, the team announced on Wednesday.

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Patrice Bergeron (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bergeron, 31, is a franchise center for the Bruins and helped Team Canada to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey title just weeks ago. Bruins head coach Claude Julien spoke about how Bergeron’s absence impacts the Bruins to start the season.

“You’re missing one of your better players,” Julien said, according Matt Kalman at NHL.com. “So it’s not easy to start, but it’s a reality. I really feel that it’s an opportunity for guys to show … we’ve been talking about having depth, well let’s use that depth right now. And if everybody does their job and we play the way we should, I think we can get through this.”

The Bruins are also without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. McQuaid’s status is day-to-day while Miller’s fractured hand is expected to keep him out of the lineup for the next six weeks. Miller underwent successful hand surgery on Tuesday.

On the brighter side for the Bruins, forward Austin Czarnik has been cleared for full-contact action and is expected to be in the lineup when the team opens the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. Czarnik suffered a concussion after a hit by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas last week. Gudas received a six-game suspension from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for the play.