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Sharpen Up: January 11, 2019

What you need to know ahead of tonight's game in Carolina

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Jeff Skinner will make his return to Carolina when the Sabres visit the Hurricanes tonight for their first meeting of the season. 

Whether he goes back as an All-Star remains to be seen.

'Last Man In' voting closed at midnight, and fans have been making a push throughout the week to send the league's second-leading goal scorer to San Jose. The memes from @BuffaloSabres haven't hurt, either: 

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: *Jeff Skinner scores the second most goals in the NHL*People not voting for him:

Whether he makes it or not, Skinner said Thursday that he's appreciated the love. 

"It's been cool," he said. "For me, coming to Buffalo, it's been a new experience - a new fanbase, new teammates, a new organization. Everyone's made me feel real comfortable from the beginning and it's continued. It's a good feeling."

Here's what you need to know. 


Return for Eichel?

Video: Sabres Now (1/10/19)

Jack Eichel declared himself back to 100 percent following practice at Harborcenter, which could bode well for a potential return to the lineup. Phil Housley wouldn't go so far as to confirm Eichel for tonight, but he was encouraged by the way the captain practiced. 

"I thought he did quite well, a pretty high-tempo, bump-and-grind practice," Housley said. "It's good to see him out there. I thought he did a good job today."

If Eichel does play, expect to see him centering a line with Skinner and Tage Thompson. We covered Thompson's recent play in Thursday's practice report and how his well-earned promotion could help balance the Sabres' forwards lines. 

"Tage has been playing very good hockey the last 10 games, particularly the last five," Housley said. "He's creating a lot of offense, he's using his speed, he's using his shot, he's been reliable defensively. I just put him up with Jack to get some balance."

Read more on the decision - including how Skinner and Reinhart fared on separate lines against the Devils - here


Tonight's matchup

The Hurricanes had a five-game winning streak snapped with a 3-1 loss in Tampa on Thursday. They held a 1-0 lead until midway through the third period, when the Lightning strung together three unanswered goals in a span of 8:04.

Sebastian Aho leads the Hurricanes with 45 points (16+29) in 43 games.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are looking to build on their 5-1 win over the Devils at KeyBank Center on Tuesday. That game saw the Sabres turn in their most productive home period since 2009, with five goals scored and 14 different players registering a point. 

Here are today's top notes from Sabres PR: 

  • Jack Eichel has totaled nine points (6+3) in nine career games against the Hurricanes, including six (3+3) in his last two. 

  • Entering play Thursday, Jeff Skinner's seven game-winning goals tied for the most in the NHL this season. He is the first Sabres player with at least seven game-winners in a season since Derek Roy (9) in 2008-09 and is four shy of matching the single-season franchise record of 11 shared by Danny Gare (1979-80) and Alexander Mogilny (1992-93)

  • Skinner spent eight seasons playing for the Hurricanes after being selected by the team in the first round (7th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft. He played in 579 games for the club, scoring 204 goals and adding 175 assists. He still ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in games played (9th), goals (5th) and points (7th).
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