BUFFALO — Jeff Skinner said Friday he has no interest leaving the Buffalo Sabres despite being scratched the past three games.
“I love being a Sabre,” the forward said. “I love the city of Buffalo. I wouldn’t have chosen to stay here if that wasn’t the case. That answer is simple: No.”
But the 28-year-old said he isn’t sure what was accomplished by being benched.
“I’ve played in a lot of hockey games and I don’t think you learn anything extra by not being out there,” Skinner said. “This situation is maybe not that straightforward in the fact that lessons being learned is maybe more of a vague concept. In that sense, it’s tough when it’s so vague to come to a concrete answer. I know this is kind of a confusing way of answering the question, but it’s almost like it’s not a significant part of the situation in my view. I try and focus on what’s important, and what’s important is moving forward. And that for me is sort of keeping things simple and trying to work hard and get better in practice, get better in the gym, to try and eventually help the team win.”
Skinner could be back in the lineup when the Sabres host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNE, SNO, SNP, MSG-B, NBCSP, NHL.TV). He practiced Friday on a line with Casey Mittelstadt and Riley Sheahan.
Coach Ralph Krueger wouldn’t confirm any lineup decisions, only saying that Skinner will be available.
“We are an environment of accountability, and you need to earn your keep here on this group every single game and every practice,” Krueger said. “What I’m telling you doesn’t only apply to Jeff. It applies to every player on our team, and if somebody slips there are different ways to deal with it. In the end, the goal is to find out what the potential of the player is for us now and get that player to that potential.”
Skinner, who is in the second season of an eight-year, $72 million contract ($9 million average annual value) he signed before becoming a free agent, has one assist in 14 games two seasons after scoring an NHL career-high 40 goals.
Skinner said he has talked with Krueger but that he felt it wouldn’t be respectful to get into details of the conversation.
“If he’s satisfied it’s a judgment he has to make,” Skinner said. “All I know is for me I try to help the team win as much as I can and that’s my main focus. Obviously the coach is trying to win games too, and I think we can agree on that.”
Buffalo (6-8-3) is tied with the New York Rangers for seventh place in the eight-team MassMutual East Division. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“In this league there’s a lot of ups and downs,” Skinner said. “A lot of times I think the best way to cope with that is, such a cliche, but take it a day at a time. And for me, this last little while, obviously you want to be out there battling with your teammates.
“The situation as a whole is something that, obviously, there’s a lot of emotions involved. You try and take time to digest that and stuff like that because I think in any situation like that, that’s the best thing to do. But the more important thing is to keep moving forward and to keep having a positive attitude and working hard and trying to get better.”