What Will Buffalo Do Next With Jeff Skinner
Coming off of a much needed win against the New Jersey Devils, what comes next for the Buffalo Sabres? The Sabres biggest uncertainty is the status of Jeff Skinner. Skinner was acquired by the Sabres in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes prior to the 2018 NHL season. In his first season with the team, Skinner netted 40 goals in addition to his 23 assists for 63 points. Following that season, Skinner signed an eight year contract with an average annual value of nine million dollars. Since signing his massive contract, Jeff Skinner’s production has fallen substantially. In 14 games this season, Skinner has zero goals and one assist.
Due to a lack of production, Skinner has been a healthy scratch for the previous two Sabres games. Furthermore, Skinner is expected to stay out of the line up for the Sabres match up on Thursday, February 25 against the New Jersey Devils. Sabres Head Coach Ralph Kruger has elected to keep the decisions behind the team’s roster moves in house. Even without confirmation from the coaching staff, the assumption can be made that Skinner’s absence is related to his production, or lack there of. In addition, Skinner has a no move clause in his contract. As the season progresses, there is no telling what may come next with the $72 million forward.
A Positive Note On Offensive Production
Aside from Skinner, it is no secret that the Sabres have struggled to score this season. However, in their past three contests the Sabres have netted seven goals. A statistic like this may hold no weight for a different franchise, but for the Sabres it is a glimmer of hope. Victor Olofsson continues to lead the team in goals with seven on the season. Olofsson comes in tied in points with the teams captain, Jack Eichel, at 14.
With upcoming games against the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, the Sabres will be put to the test yet again. Another positive aspect of the Sabres offense has been Sam Reinhart. Reinhart has 13 points in 14 games this season and has stood out as a notable difference maker for the blue and gold. Reinhart is currently in the final year of his contract and will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
What Comes Next Defensively
As the Sabres look to climb out of their early season deficit, defensive injuries seem to be piling up. Rasmus Ristolainen has yet to return to play following his battle with Covid-19. The elite defenseman plays a key role for the Sabres, a gap that is not easy to fill. In addition, Jake McCabe has been ruled out for the season due to a knee injury. Will Borgen was able to temporarily fill the void on the back end in the early stages of his career. However, after playing in four games, Borgen has since been ruled out with an injury to his forearm. Given the lack of key defenseman due to injury, the Sabres must look to their goaltending to keep them alive.
Goaltender Linus Ullmark has set out to do just that. Ullmark played well for the Sabres early on, but has been exceptional in his last several games making 41 stops in their latest tilt with the Devils. As the season progresses Ullmark will have to continue to be the difference maker.
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