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Sabres' Skinner willing to be patient about starting talks on contract extension

Jeff Skinner has 16 points in 15 games this season for the Buffalo Sabres – and his eight goals since being put on the club's top line Oct. 20 is tied for the NHL lead in that span.

Skinner is proving to be the sniper the Sabres hoped for when they traded for him from Carolina in August, and is surprising his new team with his ferocity on the forecheck.

Lingering in the background: Skinner is an unrestricted free agent after the season and is likely going to get a long-term extension well over his current cap hit of $5.725 million. The cost of a new deal is going up, seemingly by the day. So is fan angst about the topic.

Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said recently on WGR Radio that the Sabres can "wait until later in the year" to talk contract with Skinner.

That's the same thought process Skinner has.

"For me as a player, you focus on the things you can control," Skinner told The Buffalo News after practice Wednesday. "There are agents and management people, guys who are really a lot smarter than me, who deal with that kind of stuff. Fortunately for me, I focus on playing. That sort of thing will figure itself out in time.

"I'm happy with the adjustment that's taken place in Buffalo. I'm comfortable and happy here. I'm just focusing on getting better, going game by game and getting where we want to be."

Skinner is tied with San Jose's Timo Meier and Montreal's Max Domi for the league goal lead since joining Jack Eichel's line for the Oct. 20 game in Los Angeles. Skinner and Domi go head-to-head Thursday night when the Sabres and Canadiens meet in Bell Centre.

"You have to be aware when he's out there with the confidence he's playing with," Skinner said of Domi, who scored two goals in the Sabres' 4-3 win over the Habs here on Oct. 25. "Just as they are as a team. They've been playing well, playing fast and it makes us a good challenge.

"It's a pretty cool place to play, one of the louder rinks in the league. For us, it's a divisional game and for me now, too, so that makes it a big game for us."

Coach Phil Housley said former Montreal defenseman Nathan Beaulieu is getting back into the Sabres' lineup after a run as a healthy scratch. He will replace Casey Nelson and partner with Rasmus Dahlin.

NHL goal leaders since Oct. 20
Player, team                          GP  G
Jeff Skinner, Buffalo               8  8
Timo Meier, San Jose            8  8
Max Domi, Montreal             9  8
Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis          7  7
Jason Pominville, Buffalo      8  7
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton    10 7
NHL point leaders since Oct. 20
Player, team                          GP  Pts
Mark Stone, Ottawa                9   15
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay    10  14
Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis             7  14
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay  10 13
Jeff Skinner, Buffalo                   8 13
Jason Pominville, Buffalo          8 13
Jack Eichel, Buffalo                    8 12

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