BUFFALO – The Sabres have a way of making any recent progress quickly feel like a distant memory.
For the first two weeks of December, they channeled some of their early-season form, shaking off an awful November swoon and moving back into a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
Now, having dropped five of their last six games (1-4-1), they’re struggling again.
To make matters worse, in addition to losing 3-0 to the heavyweight Boston Bruins on Friday, winger Jeff Skinner left with an upper-body injury four minutes into the third period.
As Skinner raced up to hit David Pastrnak near the Buffalo bench, the Bruins star saw him coming and laid his upper body into Skinner’s right shoulder, sending him to the ice.
Skinner, who has scored only 11 times this season following his first 40-goal campaign, got up slowly and went to the dressing room.
Following the game, Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said Skinner suffered an upper-body injury and was being evaluated. The team would have an update today.
Skinner, who signed an eight-year, $72 million contract in June, has struggled this month. He hasn’t scored since Dec. 2, an 11-game stretch.
“He played a really good game today,” Krueger said. “I thought the Johansson line, the last three games, the motor was Jeff and you could see with Johansson and Vesey, we had something like 17 or 18 scoring chances the last three games for that line alone.”
Skinner, who made his 700th NHL appearance Friday, has never missed a game with the Sabres, playing 121 straight contests.
His absence for any period of time could be a huge blow to the Sabres.
Sure, they’ve showcased a lethal offense at times, piling up goals. But they’ve gone cold in the last four games, scoring more than one goal just once.
On Friday before a capacity crowd of 19,070 inside KeyBank Center, Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves to shut out the Sabres for the fourth time in his career.
“We had our chances tonight, we just couldn’t get the puck in the net,” Johansson said. “Their goalie was playing unbelievable, obviously. I think it was the same thing the other night in Ottawa (a 3-1 loss) as well.
“We just got to stick with it. I think we’re creating enough chances to get back in the game and win the game. But we got to put the puck in the net, too.”
Two late goals from the Bruins ultimately killed the Sabres.
First, Bruins star Patrice Bergeron scored a power-play goal with 22 seconds left in the first period. Then Bergeron scored again with 1:34 remaining in the second period, capitalizing after Pastrnak knocked the puck away from Vesey along the wall in the Buffalo zone.
“A bad play by me,” Vesey said. “I’m trying to take it back into my own zone on my backhand. I didn’t know what type of play I had, but I guess I got to eat the puck there, especially knowing who’s on the ice for them. We gave them one inch and it’s in the back of our net. I didn’t like that play from myself.”
Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo later added an empty-net goal. The loss ended the Sabres’ five-game home winning streak.
Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark looked sharp against the Bruins, stopping 22 shots.
The same teams meet again Sunday in Boston.