Sabres' Skinner makes initial return to Carolina
Left winger Jeff Skinner has skated many times at PNC Arena.
Never has he been on the visiting team.
That changes Friday night when the Buffalo Sabres bring Skinner along for the matchup with the host Carolina Hurricanes.
Skinner, 26, played the first eight years of his NHL career with the Hurricanes until an offseason trade sent him to Buffalo last summer. He has been one of the NHL's top offensive players this season.
He was the Rookie of the Year in 2010-11, when he racked up 31 goals. He reached the 30-goal mark two other times with Carolina (33 in 2013-14, and 37 in 2016-17) before notching 24 goals last season.
Skinner is tied for second in the NHL with 29 goals, trailing only Washington's Alex Ovechkin. He's on pace to collect the third-most goals in a season in Sabres history.
"Jeff Skinner has obviously been a big, big contributor for us, has put us in this position," Sabres coach Phil Housley said.
Skinner's line could include center Jack Eichel and right winger Tage Thompson. Eichel hasn't played since New Year's Eve, but he could be ready to return to action, based on Thursday's practice session.
The Hurricanes had been on a roll with a season-best five-game winning streak until Thursday night's 3-1 setback at Tampa Bay, where they concluded a three-game road trip.
Carolina led 1-0 until the final nine minutes, so it was a frustrating finish.
The Hurricanes return to home ice with youngsters playing increased roles, particularly among forwards as veteran Jordan Staal remains out of the lineup.
"They're learning on the fly and putting them in some situations," coach Rod Brind'Amour said of the relative newcomers. "I don't think they lose confidence. If anything, I think it's the opposite. They gain confidence because they are getting shifts out there."
Forward Micheal Ferland said the recent stretch has been good for the Hurricanes.
"We wanted to get something going," Ferland said. "I think we put ourselves in a good spot to create momentum for ourselves."
Hurricanes captain Justin Williams has 300 career goals after his second-period tally Thursday night. He has scored in four of the past five games.
The Hurricanes are likely to go with Curtis McElhinney as the goalie after using Petr Mrazek on Thursday night.
Buffalo has won three games in a row.
Sabres rookies C.J. Smith and Lawrence Pilut, a defenseman, scored their first NHL goals in Tuesday night's 5-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils.
"It was really kind an indescribable moment more than anything," Smith said. "You work your whole life to get to the NHL and you get that first one, it's pretty exciting."
Housley said he likes to see the mixture of goals from several sources.
"There are going to be guys that contribute offensively when you win," he said. "It doesn't matter who it is on our team. I think that's going to help their confidence as we move forward."
This is the first of three meetings this season. Buffalo returns to Raleigh in mid-March.
Friday's game is also part of a back-to-back for the Sabres, who will be home Saturday against Tampa Bay.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 10, 2019