When the Buffalo Sabres took the ice at LECOM Harborcenter on Sunday, they were joined by forward Jeff Skinner, who has been out for nearly a month due to an upper-body injury.
Skinner was a welcome addition to Buffalo's first practice following their bye week. He's missed 10 games since colliding with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak in front of the Buffalo bench on Dec. 27.
He is now listed as day-to-day.
Video: Jeff Skinner returns to practice
Skinner scored a career-high 40 goals last season, but through 39 games this year, his goal total stands at 11. His last tally came on Dec. 2 in the team's 7-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. At the time of the injury, he hadn't scored in 11 games.
However, he had been generating scoring chances for both himself and his linemates, which is a reason for optimism.
"Obviously during the season, you go through stretches where you're feeling better than others. I felt like I was playing well. I thought our line was clicking a little bit more," Skinner said. "It's unfortunate, but at the same time, I think the guys have done a great job. I've been watching and it's time for us to make a push now."
Even though the production wasn't there, Sabres coach Ralph Krueger liked what he was seeing from Skinner.
"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," Krueger said. "As a result, the injury at that time was very disappointing because it like he was in that space. 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's next game is Tuesday night when they host the Ottawa Senators at KeyBank Center. Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage on MSG starting at 6:30. Tickets are on sale now.
Video: Ralph Krueger after Sunday's practice
Earlier in the day, the team recalled defenseman Lawrence Pilut from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. He was sent down along with forwards Rasmus Asplund and Scott Wilson in order to get some games in during Buffalo's bye week.
Pilut is fourth on the Amerks in scoring and netted an overtime winner on Wednesday.
Krueger said that Asplund could return to the Sabres roster soon, but they need to first evaluate Skinner's availability before making any other roster moves.
"He's on the edge of coming back here depending on our needs," Krueger said of Asplund. "But at the moment, we'll look at this group again tomorrow and make a call probably on the game day whether we add to the roster or not."
Captain Jack Eichel was absent from practice as he was traveling back from St. Louis, where he represented the Sabres during the NHL's All-Star Weekend. Click here for Sabres.com's recap of the All-Star Game.
Here's how the team lined up at practice without Eichel:
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 27 Curtis Lazar - 23 Sam Reinhart
53 Jeff Skinner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 67 Michael Frolik
43 Conor Sheary - 22 Johan Larsson - 71 Evan Rodrigues
21 Kyle Okposo - 13 Jimmy Vesey
24 Lawrence Pilut - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 62 Brandon Montour
33 Colin Miller - 10 Henri Jokiharju
19 Jake McCabe - 4 Zach Bogosian
35 Linus Ullmark
40 Carter Hutton