BUFFALO – In Eric Robinson, the Sabres on Wednesday traded for a third- or fourth-line winger capable of killing penalties and providing some much-needed energy.
Having lost four straight games and five of their last six, the reeling Sabres needed to make a move, and while the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Robinson is hardly a star, he can certainly help.
In recent games, they’ve looked soft, regularly losing battles and showcasing little pushback. With veteran winger Zemgus Girgensons and other top penalty killers injured, the units have struggled.
Robinson, 28, cost little, as the Sabres sent the Columbus Blue Jackets a conditional seventh-round pick in 2025.
He has compiled 38 goals, 82 points and 40 penalty minutes in 266 career games with the Blue Jackets. He scored his only NHL hat trick Feb. 28 in a 5-3 win in Buffalo.
The New Jersey native lost his spot in the lineup earlier this season, cleared waivers and began his first stint in the AHL since 2019.
He registered one goal in seven games with the Blue Jackets this season and one goal and four points in nine contests with the Cleveland Monsters. He played Tuesday in Columbus’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Blue Jackets signed Robinson as a free agent out of Princeton in 2018. He captained the Tigers as a senior.
He’s in the final season of a two-year, $3.2 million contract. He can become an unrestricted free agent following the season.
Robinson could be in the lineup for tonight’s road game against the heavyweight Boston Bruins, who have started the season 17-4-3.
Perhaps Robinson’s presence can ignite the Sabres, who are visiting Boston at about the worst possible time. The Bruins have feasted on the Sabres in recent years, winning 20 of the last 22 meetings.
The Sabres are 2-17-3 during that awful run and 1-9-1 in the last 11 games.
“I consider those stupid stats,” center Tage Thompson said when informed of the Sabres’ record in the last 22 games against Boston. “I mean, anyone can win on any given night. It doesn’t matter what your record is in the past against them or where their record is now or where our record is. It’s a competitive league. Anyone can win on any given night, and that’s what it comes down to.
“And I think that has to be your mindset going into every game. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we know we’re capable of winning. That’s the attitude you have to have or you’re going to get walked on.”
The Sabres can certainly learn some lessons from the Bruins, who play tenaciously while executing a rigid system.
Coach Don Granato said the Sabres must show a “simple and direct” style.
“A big part of winning is understanding the process of the game, just the simple process of the game,” he said following Wednesday’s practice in KeyBank Center. “Consistent movement down the ice as far as win your shift, put pucks in, pressure pucks, get a shot when you can get a shot, as opposed to flat out try to score a goal or make a perfect play or the ideal play. …
“You need to hit the repeat button on that and you need to be comfortable that this is something you have to repeat. It’s not anything bigger or anything more grand, it’s just a simple, hard and direct (style) over and over again.”
The Sabres haven’t been too hard to play against this season, especially in the past two weeks. During their awful 1-5-0 stretch, they’ve wilted early, getting outscored a whopping 13-1 in the first period. In Tuesday’s 5-3 home loss to the Detroit Red Wings, they trailed 2-0 by the 8:25 mark.
A season ago, when they finished one win shy of earning a playoff spot, the Sabres scored 293 goals, in part, because they put in the work to generate offense.
This year, however, they’ve struggled to score. Right now, they’re on pace to register just 233 goals. Consistently losing battles has been a major factor in the decline. Nearly every player is performing far below expectations.
“We can’t just assume we’re going to leave off right where we ended last season just because of the way we finished last season,” Thompson said. “And you got to earn everything, and I think maybe at times throughout certain games we feel like it’s just going to automatically flip a switch and we’ll turn it around, and that’s not the case. You got to work and earn everything you get on the ice. …
“I think everyone in the room knows that as well. It’s not an easy league. It’s tough to win.”
Notes: Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin missed Wednesday’s practice with a lower-body injury but accompanied the Sabres to Boston. “We looked at it further and good news there,” Granato said. … Goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is still sick and did not travel to Boston. Luukkonen missed Tuesday’s game. … The Sabres on Wednesday sent forward Brandon Biro back to the Rochester Americans. … Captain Kyle Okposo had a maintenance day Wednesday.