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Skinner will return to Sabres lineup against Senators

Forward missed 10 games with upper-body injury, said he isn't 'rusty'

by Heather Engel / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Jeff Skinner will return to the lineup for the Buffalo Sabres when they host the Ottawa Senators at KeyBank Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, MSG-B, TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV).

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said Monday that the forward is good to go. Skinner was a full participant at practice Sunday, his first since sustaining an upper-body injury against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 27 that caused him to miss 10 games.

"Jeff looks really, really good today. He felt good," Krueger said Sunday. "Obviously, his first time back in the bigger group after multiple weeks. We have to be patient with the process, but the first reports are that he feels strong and ready to go, so let's hope it continues down this path for the game on Tuesday."

Skinner had been skating on his own for almost two weeks before rejoining the Sabres for their first practice following their League-mandated break prior to the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game. 

"Any time you get back out there rehabbing, you always start by skating by yourself, so it's always nice to take the step of skating with your teammates," Skinner said. "I felt good. I was the only one that wasn't rusty out there. I felt really good."

Skinner, who skated at left wing with center Marcus Johansson and right wing Michael Frolik on Sunday, has 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in 39 games this season but had gone 11 games without scoring a goal at the time of his injury.

Video: NJD@BUF: Skinner beats Domingue with quick wrist shot

"I felt like I was playing pretty well," Skinner said. "Obviously, during the season you go through stretches where you feel better than others. I think I felt like I was playing well. I thought our line was sort of clicking a little bit more."

Said Krueger, "There were four, five games at the end where we really felt he was finding his rhythm and the goals were just going to come. That was the final piece that was missing. As a result, the injury at that time was very disappointing because it felt like he was in that space and I think he's had some good time here to observe what the game is that we're playing and need to play. His re-entry will be exciting for us. It gives us more depth in scoring and more offensive punch. We look forward to him just stepping right back in where he left off."

Buffalo (22-20-7), which won three of its final four games before the break, will be looking to make up ground in the Stanley Cup Playoff race, trailing the Carolina Hurricanes by 10 points for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference, and the Florida Panthers by 10 for third place in the Atlantic Division.

However, the Sabres will play nine of their next 10 games at KeyBank Center, where they are 14-6-3 this season.

"We got a good opportunity, I think. It's a big home stretch," Skinner said. "Coming off the break, guys should be refreshed, a little bit more excited coming out of the break here. Hopefully we can get off to a good start here and sort of get some momentum on our side and sort of roll with it."

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