Conor Sheary endured long goal droughts last season. ©2019, Janet Schultz

Conor Sheary knows consistency must improve to help Sabres

BUFFALO – Sabres winger Conor Sheary certainly showcased flashes of his scoring prowess last season.

On Nov. 18, Sheary scored in his third straight game, his sixth goal in just his 16th outing with the Sabres.

Then suddenly, Sheary, 27, went cold.

The speedy UMass product endured a 16-game goal drought. After scoring an empty-netter Dec. 22, he experienced an 11-game dry spell.

On. Jan 29, Sheary finally scored past a goalie again.

In an inconsistent, underwhelming 2018-19 season, Sheary, who will play tonight in Toronto, compiled 14 goals in 78 contests.

“I take away that just because I had a down year I don’t think I lost my game in this league and I don’t think I’m as effective anymore,” Sheary said after the Sabres prepared for their preseason game against the Maple Leafs. “I’ve proved that over … the course of my career.

“I think if I’m a little bit more consistent this year and stick to that more often and not get away from that, I think I can really help this team win.”

Sheary, who scored 23 goals in 2016-17, the same season he earned his second Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, has a history of producing offense and winning.

A “refreshed” Sheary grabbed new coach Ralph Krueger’s attention in Monday’s 5-4 win over Pittsburgh, scoring and setting up captain Jack Eichel’s late overtime winner.

“He had a big impact on the first game, I thought, with the goal and then the play to Jack in overtime,” Krueger said. “It might have looked easy from above, but you know the clock’s ticking down, you’ve got 10 seconds to go, you’ve got to make that pass and overall, he showed the ability to play on different sides.

“I think he definitely can play left or right side. He seems to be a player who will add value to any line he’s on, but he gives us an interesting game.”

The Sabres have a surfeit of left wingers in training camp, so Krueger has been testing Sheary on the right side.

Sheary skated there this morning beside center Dylan Cozens, the seventh overall pick in June, and Arttu Ruotsalainen, a newcomer from Finland.

Here are the forward lines the Sabres will likely use tonight at Scotiabank Arena:

– C.J. Smith, Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo

– Remi Elie, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson

– Curtis Lazar, Kevin Porter and Jean-Sebastien Dea

The Sabres will bring the following defensemen to Toronto: Will Borgen, Jacob Bryson, John Gilmour, Brandon Hickey, Henri Jokiharju, Jake McCabe and Zach Redmond.

Krueger said goalie Linus Ullmark will start tonight and could be relieved by Andrew Hammond later than he did Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hammond replaced Ullmark about halfway through the 4-1 road loss.

The Sabres play the Leafs again Saturday at KeyBank Center.

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