Feb. 23: Another night, another Sabres game in which Skinner and his $9MM cap hit will watch from the press box. NHL.com’s Mike Morreale confirms that Skinner will be a healthy scratch again on Tuesday night, indicating that this was not just a one-off decision by Krueger to send a message to his expensive, underperforming star. It may in fact beg the question of whether there will be more scratches or games played from Skinner over the rest of the season, especially if Buffalo continues to struggle.
We don’t measure players only on statistics. It’s part of the mix. It is just a bit of a gut feel that the best lineup for tonight was with Casey Mittelstadt in that spot. It’s less against Jeff than it is for what we think this group needs today. There will be underlying messages, of course, anytime somebody doesn’t play. But in the end, the decisions are for the team and for the group and for the chance to win. I just think it’s good for Jeff to take a look once from the outside.
Feb. 21: The Buffalo Sabres were hoping that after signing his eight-year, $72MM deal back in 2019 that Jeff Skinner was going to continue to put up big numbers. After all, the forward was coming off a 40-goal season in 2018-19. However, he struggled last year, putting up just 14 goals in 59 games and now has failed to score this season in 14 contests.
With the Sabres struggling in last place in the East Division with just five wins, head coach Ralph Krueger is looking to make some changes. After benching Henri Jokiharju and Tage Thompson on Saturday, Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington writes that Krueger is now focusing on Skinner. During practice Sunday, Casey Mittelstadt skated in Skinner’s place, while Skinner skated with Curtis Lazar and taxi squad forward Rasmus Asplund. A final decision on whether Skinner stays in the lineup will come on Monday.
Skinner played a season-low 11:22 against New Jersey Saturday even though he had four shots, which tied for a season high. However, he had just three shots on goal in the back-to-back games against the New York Islanders last week in which he went shot-less in the second game.
“We will continue to analyze postgame what we feel and what we see,” Krueger said. “And look for the mix that we believe gives us as a team within the roles we need the best chance to be successful. You saw a potential change in the mix today. We won’t confirm it till tomorrow. But it’s how we function here. We look honestly at production. We look honestly at the inputs in and around the team game that we need, and try and put that mix in place that gives us a chance.”
Skinner currently is tied for the league lead in shots on goal without a goal, tied with New York Rangers forward Phillip Di Giuseppe, each with 31 shots on goal (and no goals). The fact that he also has just one assist doesn’t help his case either. Regardless, Skinner believes that sitting out isn’t the answer.
“This is my 11th year, over 700 games in the league and I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like I needed a day off to relook at things,” Skinner said. “I think I’ve seen a lot in this league. Run through adversity before my career. You just work, keep working and put your head down. And that’s what I’ll do.”