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Sabres looking to improve scoring depth before Trade Deadline, GM says

Botterill also wants to add more speed to roster

by Heather Engel / Independent Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres will be looking to improve their scoring depth prior to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24, general manager Jason Botterill said Tuesday.

"We've been very honest from that standpoint," Botterill said. "I think if we can add more to our sort of offensive mix, we're certainly looking for it. I think also when you can add to just our team speed up front, it's another thing you look at."

Of the 146 goals scored by the Sabres through their 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, 51 percent have come from forwards Jack Eichel (29), Sam Reinhart (18), Victor Olofsson (16) and Jeff Skinner (11). 

Olofsson has been out since Jan. 4 with a lower-body injury, and though he is progressing well, coach Ralph Krueger said Monday he is a couple of weeks away. Skinner returned to the Sabres lineup Tuesday after missing the previous 10 games with an upper-body injury. He had one shot and was minus-2 in 18:33.

Video: BUF@NSH: Reinhart whips Dahlin's nice feed past Rinne

"We are excited tonight to obviously get Jeff [Skinner] back in the lineup," Botterill said before the game. "That's going to be a huge addition and now see if that mix of Skinner, [Marcus] Johansson, [Michael] Frolik have chemistry as a line there."

The Sabres (22-21-7), who are 20th in the NHL in scoring, have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2011, the longest active drought in the League. They trail the Carolina Hurricanes by 10 points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference and the Florida Panthers by 10 for third place in the Atlantic Division.

The loss Tuesday began a stretch of five straight and nine of 10 at home, where they are 14-7-3 this season. 

"We'll certainly see how things progress here. I think it's exciting to have [nine of the next 10] here at home. At the start of the year, that was a challenge to our group to have a strong home-ice presence," Botterill said. "For the most part, I think we've done a good job with that. I think you really look at our group from Christmas break on, we've played fairly well but maybe haven't got the results that we wanted all the time and now it's important, starting here tonight against Ottawa, to try to get the results but continue to improve as a group."

That group includes two players who have each reportedly requested a trade: defenseman Zach Bogosian and forward Evan Rodrigues. Each was scratched against the Senators. Bogosian sat for the 10th time in 28 games since returning from offseason hip surgery, and Rodrigues was scratched for the 19th time this season.

"If a player does go to the media, it's not going to change how we're going to dictate things," Botterill said. "If something materializes that improves our team, we'll certainly make that move from that standpoint. But I also think that it's something the coaching staff reflects on every day and sort of sees what is the group that can help us win."

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