Eric Comrie has won four straight starts. ©2023, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres goalie Eric Comrie in midst of unusual winning streak

BUFFALO – Eric Comrie’s unusual four-game winning streak began 15 games and 42 days ago, when the Sabres awarded him a rare start Jan. 26 against the Winnipeg Jets.

The goalie had been used sparingly following his return from a lower-body injury that sidelined him seven weeks. After playing Jan. 10, he sat out eight straight games before earning the nod against his old team. He stopped 19 shots that night, helping the Sabres extend their winning streak to five contests.

Then Comrie, 27, watched the next four games. The cycle has repeated itself for the past seven weeks as the Sabres try to find playing time for three goalies.

Rookie goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who turns 24 today, has developed into the No. 1 netminder. Veteran Craig Anderson, 41, starts every third game or so. Comrie, meanwhile, receives sporadic action.

Following his road win Feb. 15 against the Anaheim Ducks, he sat out two games before making 36 stops in a road victory Feb. 23 over the Tampa Bay Lightning. After that win, he watched four games before stopping 33 shots in Saturday afternoon’s 5-3 home win over the Lightning.

Given his recent exploits and how badly the Sabres need a win, they might utilize Comrie tonight against the Dallas Stars at KeyBank Center.

After Tuesday’s 3-2 road loss to the New York Islanders, the Sabres have lost four of their last five outings. They trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by five points for the Eastern Conference’s final wild card spot. The Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators stand ahead of the Sabres.

Goaltending hasn’t been a problem. Luukkonen looked sharp Tuesday, making 36 saves. But Comrie hasn’t lost in nearly two months and the Sabres, having scored 21 times in those four starts, have given him lots of goal support.

Luukkonen has received 13 goals during his last four starts, while Anderson has received 11.

“The team’s played really well in front of me and I’ve got four wins in a row so I’m feeling pretty good, feeling pretty sharp right now,” Comrie said following Saturday’s game. “… They’re giving me a lot of confidence, getting a lot of goal support. So that always helps.”

Comrie said despite his limited workload, he has recaptured his early-season form. It can be easy to forget with Luukkonen’s emergence, but he played 11 of the first 17 games, his first stint as an NHL starting goalie.

“I feel like where I was at the start of the year when we were fully healthy and then we got a whole bunch of D injuries and things kind of derailed,” he said. “… It took me a while to get back to that point from my injury, but I’m feeling really good right now.”

Sabres coach Don Granato said Comrie “is internalizing, taking things in, even when he backs up.”

“He’s done that through his whole career,” he said Saturday. “Everything matters to him, every puck, every play. When it matters, you’re tracking every detail and potential thing that could happen with great hindsight because he studies the game, he studies the position, shooters on the other team, he was real good for us in a tough game in Tampa. …

“(Tampa Bay) is not an easy team to play. You have to know who is the high-percentage shooters and who maybe shoots for rebounds and stuff. He studies those things. He’s dialed in. Everything matters to him and he is rising to the occasion right now.”

The numbers Comrie has compiled during his winning streak aren’t exactly gaudy. He has a 3.23 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage.

Overall, he has registered an 8-8-0 record with a 3.56 goals-against average and an .885 save percentage.

Right now, Luukkonen has 15 wins and Anderson has nine. If Comrie and Anderson both hit double digits, it will mark just the 15th time in NHL history a team has had three goalies each earn at least 10 wins.

Carolina Hurricanes goalies Frederik Andersen, Pyotr Kochetkov and Antti Raanta all hit the 10-win mark by late January.

Notes: The Sabres on Wednesday sent defenseman Lawrence Pilut back to the Rochester Americans. They summoned the Swede from the AHL for insurance prior to Tuesday’s game. Defensemen Mattias Samuelsson and Riley Stillman are both day to day with upper-body injuries. … Winger Jeff Skinner’s goal in Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers was his 63rd point, tying the career high he set three times earlier. He also hit the mark last season, in 2018-19 and as a rookie in 2010-11. … The Sabres had Wednesday off.

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