UNIONDALE – The lineup at practice on Sunday mirrored what the Buffalo Sabres used in the game Monday.
That means veteran Jeff Skinner was a healthy scratch for the game against the New York Islanders in Nassau Coliseum. Skinner has no goals and one point in 14 games this season and just 18 goals in his last 98 games dating to February 2019.
It has been a precipitous dropoff for Skinner, a four-time 30-goal scorer who posted a career-high 40 goals for the Sabres in 2018-19. Skinner signed an eight-year, $72 million contract with Buffalo after that season. He has struggled to deliver since, while not playing on a line with Jack Eichel, as he did most of that season.
Skinner's spot with Riley Sheahan and Curtis Lazar was filled by Casey Mittelstadt on Monday.
"We don't measure players only on statistics. It's part of the mix. It just is a bit of a gut feel," coach Ralph Krueger said before the game. "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 and what we need in a game for our team today."
With the Sabres starting a stretch of five games in seven days this week, Krueger did his best to downplay the brewing firestorm of Skinner's scratch. It is possible, in fact, that Skinner could get back in the lineup as soon as Tuesday night's game in New Jersey.
"There will be underlying messages of course anytime somebody doesn't play," Krueger admitted. "But in the end, the decisions are for the team, for the group and for the chances to win. I just think it's good for Jeff to take a look once from the outside. We've got coaches active with him working together to have him come back and be an even stronger player for us."
Aside from the Mittelstadt/Skinner switch, the Sabres' lines remained the same, with Eichel between Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart, Eric Staal centering Taylor Hall and Dylan Cozens, and Cody Eakin between Tobias Rieder and Kyle Okposo.