Peyton Krebs has scored three goals this season. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres believe Peyton Krebs ready for offensive role; UPL set to return

BUFFALO – The confidence Sabres center Peyton Krebs displayed in grabbing the puck in his own zone, roaring up the ice and undressing a defender at the blue line has taken years to develop.

In junior hockey, sure, Krebs’ skill would allow him take over a game like he did in the second period of Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Florida Panthers. But in the NHL, Sabres coach Don Granato explained, he has been “building that foundation.”

“You come in and he’s a scorer and he’s a very talented guy, but learning the game of the NHL, how to defend, situational awareness, reads,” Granato said following Friday’s practice in KeyBank Center.

In grasping those difficult aspects, Granato said Krebs has added details to his game. For example, when he deked past Kevin Stenlund, he showed patience and poise, making his opponent commit first.

“Usually young players in the league are the first ones to give up the puck,” Granato said. “They’re toe-dragging and they’re making three fakes, and a veteran NHL guy just puts stick out and it’s done, it’s killed.”

Krebs killed the play himself, passing the puck to Zemgus Girgensons on the right wing as he zoomed down the slot. Later in the period, Krebs took off again, splitting two defenders at the center red line before getting upended in the right circle.

Right now, Krebs’ numbers don’t reflect much offensive growth. As mostly a fourth-line checker, he has compiled three goals and 10 points in 51 outings this season entering this afternoon’s road game against the Minnesota Wild.

He has scored zero goals in the last 11 games and just once the last 24 contests. In the last six games, he has registered three shots on goal.

Still, as Krebs illustrated Thursday, he might be ready for a more offensive role. The Sabres have scored just two total goals in their last three losses, so Granato must make changes.

On Friday, he moved the 6-foot, 186-pound Krebs up to pivot rookie Zach Benson and JJ Peterka, whose 19 goals lead the Sabres.

“It doesn’t really who I’m playing with, to be honest,” Krebs said. “I’m going to play the same way.”

Since Krebs joined the Sabres two years ago, Granato said he has told him he would be have a greater role someday. On nights Krebs might’ve been skipped over for shifts in the third period, Granato has reassured him, saying, “I know your future is different.”

Granato also moved Alex Tuch to his usual spot at right wing alongside center Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner and shifted Casey Mittelstadt from the middle to left wing with center Dylan Cozens and Jordan Greenway.

At this point, everyone on the 14th-place Sabres probably needs a fresh start on a new line.

Granato believes Krebs’ maturation reflects the team as a whole. When you build a foundation, your skill will come out.

“When it’s all in place and it’s in your subconscious now, it’s automated, all that skill you had is going to come back, and the game is going to be much, much easier for you,” Granato said. “So that’s been a work in progress, and really … what he’s going through, I think, is what our entire team is going through.”

In the past month, Granato said Krebs, the 17th overall pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019, has occasionally showcased “offensive brilliance.”

“It’s a little spot here and a little spot there, and then it becomes more and more consistent a spot, because he has to worry less about defending, it’s more natural for him,” he said.

Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who missed Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury, practiced Friday and said he’s “ready to go” today.

Prior to the session, the Sabres assigned goalie Dustin Tokarski to the Rochester Americans and recalled Kale Clague to give them an extra defenseman.

Clague, 25, has compiled three goals and 23 points in 41 games with the Amerks this season. He spent most of last year with the Sabres, registering four assists in 33 outings.

Granato wasn’t sure if Clague will play against the Wild.

“If it’s tomorrow he goes in, he’s on the same page as we are because he keeps himself very well prepared,” he said. “He jumps in practice today and he’s at the pace of the NHL right away, because he’s a very agile, quick skater, and then he … has a great sense of objective to fit into the group.”

One thought on “Sabres believe Peyton Krebs ready for offensive role; UPL set to return”

  1. Stop with all the Krebs hype.
    It hasn’t happened yet, and likely won’t. He needs to get bigger and work on his shot

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