Jeff Skinner will return to the lineup when the Buffalo Sabres return from the break against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
Skinner has missed the past 10 games with an upper-body injury. He had gone 11 contests without a goal prior to that, though coach Ralph Krueger had been encouraged by the signs in his game.
"We were really pleased with the way he was able to continue to create offense while taking care of the responsibilities without the puck that we need from everybody to be a competitive team here," Krueger said. "We liked his involvement with the whole game in both directions.
"Continue to build on that, where he left off 10 games ago. We look forward to it. He's got a good spirit here like everybody else. They've come out of the break with a lot of energy and we need to put it into play here. But Jeff, of course, we need him to add to our scoring. We need depth. We need more offense throughout the lineup and Jeff's a threat to do that every night."
Skinner enjoyed early-season success skating on a line with Marcus Johansson and Vladimir Sobotka. Though Sobotka is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, Skinner has been reunited with Johansson and another two-way forward in Michael Frolik since returning to practice on Sunday.
Krueger said that Frolik should be able to provide the sort of defensive stability previously provided by Sobotka, freeing Johansson and Skinner offensively.
"Frolik gives us a lot of that kind of hockey," he said. "You never want to compare two players exactly, but it's just the stability he brings any line he plays with. He's such a pro. He makes the simple decisions and solidifies them to make them a little more free to play offense.
"But we did find that Johansson and Skinner here and there had some synergies in the 5-on-5 game and we expect with Frolik, who's really been a good addition here to the group as far as playing within the framework that we want them to play in, that they'll bring us a secondary threat all the time."
Video: PREGAME: Krueger
The Sabres are returning from a 10-day break between games for their bye week and All-Star Weekend. They play nine of their next 10 games at KeyBank Center, where they're 14-5-3 this season, offering a prime opportunity to make up ground in the standings.
"I think we've got to take advantage of it," Johansson said. "I think we've played pretty well lately. I think we've got this well-needed break. We had a lot of games there for a bit and I think this is a good opportunity for us to be right in the middle of this race. That's our goal.
"This has got to be a tough building to play in. That's been our mindset all year and I think we're getting back to that now. I'm looking forward to it."
Scouting the Senators
Ottawa is 1-4-4 since the start of January after losing, 4-3, to New Jersey in a shootout on Sunday. The Sabres and Senators have split their first two matchups of the season, with the home team winning each contest.
Jack Eichel scored four goals in a 4-2 Sabres win on Nov. 16, while Senators goalie Craig Anderson posted 44 saves in Ottawa's 3-1 victory on Dec. 23. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored two goals in the latter game.
"Well, the one we have to deal with is Anderson," Krueger said. "I mean, we all know we had 44 shots on net that game and we scored one, so that is definitely something we need to work on. But as far as the offensive threats of Ottawa, we have a lot of respect for what they have and the skill they have right through their lineup."
Anthony Duclair leads the Senators with 21 goals and 33 points, though he has not scored in his last 11 contests. Forwards Connor Brown (3+4) and Chris Tierney (3+1) are both riding four-game point streaks.
Anderson is expected to get the nod in net.
Linus Ullmark will start in net. Evan Rodrigues and Zach Bogosian will be scratched, meaning the team will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. You can also listen to the game on WGR 550, with puck drop scheduled for 7.