It's a question that's been asked often among fans. It's been asked to Jack Eichel himself.

Why would the Buffalo Sabres' franchise player come back, play out the meaningless few weeks and risk reinjuring his ankle?

"It's a bit frustrating for myself to get that question from people because it's a pretty simple answer to be honest with you: I'm playing because I'm a hockey player," Eichel said Tuesday in KeyBank Center. "It's kind of ridiculous for somebody to think the fact that we're out of the playoffs and we don't have an opportunity to really do anything with our season that I would just pack my year in. It's not who I am as a person. It's not who I've ever been and not who I am as a hockey player.

"At the end of the day, I love to play hockey. Whether we're in first place or last place in the league, it doesn't matter to me. I like to put my equipment on, go out there, play hockey. That's why I'm playing. I love to play it. I have a lot of fun doing it. It's what I look most forward to in my day. There's not really quite a feeling like it. I enjoy it every day. I'm a competitor. I want to be out there competing. I want to play, so that's why I'm playing."

After missing five weeks and 15 games, Eichel will play his third straight game Wednesday when the Sabres host the Arizona Coyotes. They're the two worst teams in the NHL, and Eichel will be out there.

"I think there should be a lot more questions asked if I decided I did want to pack it in and end my season because I had an ankle injury," the 21-year-old said. "I looked at my rehab process as if I was coming back to compete to try and get to the playoffs. Obviously, that's not the case, but I tried to put myself in the best position to come back and impact this team in a positive way.

"That's all part of us just building a culture around here. We should all want to be out there every night, and I think that's important."

The third-year pro wants no part of guys who feel differently.