UNIONDALE, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Sabres lost their third game in a row to the New York Islanders on Sunday. And just like Thursday, and Saturday, Buffalo fell short by a score of 5-2. The Sabres gave up three goals in the second period. But a long drought finally being broken wasn't enough to get the Sabres back into the game.
Monkey off his back
Sure, the Sabres went 10 months without playing a game after they missed the 2020 expanded playoffs. But for Jeff Skinner, the worst slump of his career coupled with the long off-season means he had gone over a year without lightning the lamp. And in the broadcast, you could see the relief on Skinner's face.
In purgatory, or with penalty killers as linemates, or when nothing else seemed to be working, Skinner was still generating chances. But the numbers clearly weren't there; and the only place he couldn't score from was the press box. It's not as if he was contributing absolutely nothing at all prior to today. But Skinner himself said it was "nice to contribute" after the game. Maybe his new line can help him build on that.
Lineup changes, but at what cost?
Not to take away from Skinner's ground-breaking goal, but a new linemate on the opposite wing seems to have paid off. Since the start of last season, Skinner's stay in purgatory has led to him being stuck creating chances for himself with two defensive-minded teammates. Casey Mittlestadt, who has looked more than serviceable in his limited opportunities this season, joined Skinner and Curtis Lazar in what could at least be a poor man's third line moving forward.
The cost, however, is two-fold. A corresponding roster move in the morning saw defenseman Henri Jokiharju loaned to the taxi squad. If anyone else is in Ralph Krueger's dog house this season, it's the former Chicago Blackhawk. Krueger, however, said that Jokiharju is "an important part" of Buffalo's future. The present is all but wasted. So where is Henri?
A new timeout strategy
Game in and game out, Buffalo constantly seems rattled after giving up the first goal of the game; no matter who they play, it's always the same. Today, it took Brock Nelson anohter minute and two seconds after Anders Lee put the Islanders on the board. No matter how you want to phrase it, it's the most embarrassing thing about this team. You might as well be giving up two-point goals.
Maybe, just maybe, after one goal is scored, Buffalo takes a timeout. There's no harm in it. Clearly the team is rattled. Even fresh legs is FAR from enough to keep opponents from cashing in on the following shift. The Sabres certainly won't need the timeout later if the wheels fall off of the team game in and game out as soon as their opponent finds twine. Illogical? Possibly. But logic probably isn't enough to fix this group as is anymore.