Jack Eichel will play after missing Thursday's morning skate

Rasmus Ristolainen practiced with the team for the first time since his battle with COVID-19

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) – Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner didn’t take part in Thursday’s morning skate for the Buffalo Sabres. Ralph Krueger said they thought it would be better to hold Eichel off the ice and he will play against the New Jersey Devils.

Krueger said that Skinner did practice earlier with the taxi squad guys, so Skinner will miss his third straight game. Krueger said they split the group with the guys skating on Thursday being the guys that will take warmup.

Krueger was asked what it would take to get Skinner out of his dog house.

“I don’t have a dog house. I don’t know really what that is," Krueger said. "My job is to do what’s best for the Sabres with all the information we have with my trusted circle of coaches and [general manager] Kevyn Adams. I’d love to share with everybody, but there are certain things that evolve behind the scenes, and every decision is made for the group. The way the 12 forwards have fallen together the last two games, it’s been for what we feel is best for the group on this given day.”

Rasmus Ristolainen was back on the ice with his teammates for the first time since having COVID-19. He won’t play Thursday, but he is headed in the right direction.

“Right now, I feel really good," Ristolainen said after the morning skate. "The energy level has been getting better every day. In the last six days, I’ve been skating and working out.”

Ristolainen had chest pain, as well as low blood oxygen levels as he fought the virus.

“It was really tough the first two weeks, and it was kind of hard because with the way I felt, I didn’t know what to expect the next day," Ristolainen said. "I felt like there was a new symptom coming every day.”

Ristolainen said after the first week, he started to feel better and he thought maybe it was over. However, after a few good days, it came back again.

There is nobody on this team that is more fit or in better shape than Ristolainen.

“I do everything I can and am as healthy as possible, so it’s tough," Ristolainen said. "When it came, it’s probably the worst time ever. I was playing the best hockey I had ever played here since coming to Buffalo, but it’s just a bump in the road and it’s going to make me tougher and better.”

So will Ristolainen be able to get back to the peak physical condition that he always keeps himself in? He said he’s done some investigating.

“Talking to people who have had COVID in the past, I’ve heard it takes some time to get back to 100%," Ristolainen found out. "The shape I was at, playing back-to-back games for 26-27 minutes, I didn’t even feel tired. So yes, I’m not there, but right now, I feel I’m really close and I feel really good.”

The Sabres enter the Devils game with two wins in their last three games. A win would put Buffalo past New Jersey in both points and points percentage.

Buffalo has played so much better on the road than it has at home, going only 2-5-1, while being 4-3-1 on the road. New Jersey has been the same way with a 4-2-1 road record to go with a 2-4-1 home record.

Linus Ullmark started all four games on the road trip, and in Tuesday night's win in New Jersey, he allowed less than two goals for the first time all season.

Sam Reinhart has points in four straight games, and has four goals and five assist for nine points in his last seven games.

Rasmus Dahlin has assists in three straight games.

Victor Olofsson is now tied for the Sabres' scoring lead with Eichel. In 16 games, Olofsson has seven goals and seven assists for 14 points. Eichel has two goals and 12 assists.

Join Mike Schopp for the pregame starting at 6 p.m. EST when he’ll be joined by Krueger and Ristolainen.