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Notes: Skinner has had seamless transition to Sabres

Buffalo comes to town on eight-game winning streak

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- It feels like Jeff Skinner has been in the NHL forever, yet he is still only 26 years old.

The Carolina Hurricanes drafted Skinner in the first round, 10th overall, in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and Skinner played all 82 games as an 18-year old.

Skinner quickly established himself as a top-notch scorer with 31 goals and 32 assists in his rookie season.

In 579 games with the Hurricanes, Skinner had 204 goals and 175 assists.

This past August, the Buffalo Sabres traded Cliff Pu, a second-round pick in the 2019 draft, a third-round pick in the 2020 draft and a sixth-round pick in the 2020 draft.

It's safe to say it's been a seamless transition for the talented forward, who is tied with Boston's David Pastrnak for the league lead in goals with 17.

According to the Sabres' public relations department, the last Buffalo player to finish a day leading the league in goals was Thomas Vanek on Feb. 17, 2013.

"Skinner's been a real scorer in this league before, so I don't think it's a huge surprise," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the team's optional morning skate. "I think when you play with Jack (Eichel), Jack's going to draw lots of people to him and you're going to get ice and if you get open, he's going to deliver the puck to you. Jack's an immense talent. So, if you play with him and you're a great player yourself, it's a good combination and they've been a real good combination. But there's a lot more on their team than those two for sure. But obviously those two have produced at a high level."

Skinner also has eight assists. Eichel has five goals and 21 assists in 23 games.

"Smaller guy but great skater and super-skilled," rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski said of Skinner. "He's up there in the league lead with goals right now. He's been playing well and that's fed into their team as well."

It certainly has as the Sabres come into tonight's game on an eight-game winning streak. That is their longest streak since winning their first 10 games of the 2006-07 season.

At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Eichel has a combination of speed and skill that is hard to match.

"That is the challenge," Cholowski said. "His size and his speed at the same time and then super-skilled as well. I've watched him play a little bit growing up and always loved the way he skated, the talent and the size as well doesn't hurt.

"I think it's really like any other guy, just try to be close to him, not give him any space. When you give him space, he has time to use that speed and skill. Gap up tight to him and have a good stick."

Then the Sabres also have this past summer's draft sensation, Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who has two goals, 10 assists and is plus-5 in 23 games.

"Unreal edges, can work his inside edges as good as anybody I've seen," Blashill said. "He's got a real shake and bake to his game. He's going to be a real dynamic offensive player. Like any young defenseman in the league, I'm sure he'll go through ups and downs defensively but I'm sure he's going to be everything everybody said he is."

Then the Sabres have goaltender Carter Hutton, who signed as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Hutton has won a career-best seven games in a row.

Hutton, 32, is not from Michigan but has a connection to the Mitten State.

"My first job was with Little Caesars Pizza," Hutton told the Windsor Star a few years ago. "I owe Mr. Ilitch a lot. He gave me my first job. I worked at a Little Caesars Pizza in Thunder Bay (Ontario). We had a lot of fun and I ate a lot of pizza, that's for sure.

"It was kind of cool. I grew up a huge Wings fan. My dad was a big Wings fan. I grew up watching Stevie Y (Yzerman) and (Sergei) Fedorov and those guys back in the heyday."

Hutton played Friday night against the Montreal Canadiens so backup Linus Ullmark is likely to get the call.

For the Wings, Jimmy Howard, a Syracuse, New York native, has a great record against the Sabres.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: A goalie stick for the goalie. #ForTheKids #LGRW

In 14 career games, Howard is 10-1-2 with a 1.61 goals-against average and .938 save percentage, including one shutout.

CHOLOWSKI AT QUARTER POLE: He has missed a few games due to injury but Cholowski is now a quarter of the way into his rookie season.

In 20 games, Cholowski has three goals, seven assists and is minus-5. He is averaging 19:54 ice time per game.

"Pretty good," Cholowski said of his season so far. "Just trying to get better every game and keep going. It helps with all the veteran defensemen here. I'm 20 games in now and kind of getting acclimated with it. Just trying to get better every game and keep playing the way I can."

The 20-year-old defenseman has impressed his coaches and teammates with his poise in the early going.

"I think he's had a good first stretch," Blashill said. "I think he's done some real good stuff moving the puck. He's got great poise with the puck, can really pass it. He's been better than I guessed he would have been early on the power play. Has had to learn how to gap on a consistent basis, has had to learn how to play faster on a consistent basis, has had to learn some things in the D-zone but I think he's gotten better at all those things. He wants to be a good player and he's done a good job of it."

Cholowski said he's taking his cues from his veteran teammates on acclimating to the NHL grind.

"Just really trying to follow the lead of some of the older guys," Cholowski said. "Whether that be eating better or getting more rest or doing certain things at certain times. It's really just based on how my body feels and I feel pretty good right now. Just trying to keep it that way."

EHN BACK IN MIX: The Wings recalled forward Christoffer Ehn from the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins this past Wednesday and Ehn played Friday in Washington, D.C.

"I think Ehn is a real good player," Blashill said. "I think he gives you some accountability in the lineup. He plays real good two-way game, he skates and competes, he also gives us another penalty killer. I don't have to use him, you can use five (forwards), but it's good to have six. If you have any penalties or injuries during the game, it's good to have him there for sure and I think as we get to practice next week, we can work him back into the fold."

Ehn had 10 shifts for 8:23 against the Capitals, all of that even strength.

ERICSSON READY: Veteran defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was one of the few players who participated in the team's optional morning skate.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Back home and getting set for Buffalo. #BUFvsDET #LGRW

Blashill said Ericsson is ready to go but Ericsson said he is not in the lineup against the Sabres.

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