BUFFALO – A few months ago, Sabres rookie Jack Quinn wouldn’t have possessed the confidence to score a highlight-reel goal like he did Saturday.
“Probably not, no,” Quinn said prior to Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at KeyBank Center.
Quinn, 21, didn’t merely roar down the slot and beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury early in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild. He held onto the puck about 10 seconds, moving from the right boards down to the bottom of the circle and back up to the blue line with Connor Dewar draped on him.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound winger separated from Dewar between the circles before unleashing a wicked wrist shot and ending his seven-game goal drought.
“Probably wouldn’t have been able to hold onto it that long (early in the season), whether that would’ve been actual puck protection or just knowing what I could do it,” Quinn said.
We see you Jack Quinn…1-0 on a great goal #LetsGoBuffalo #MNWild pic.twitter.com/vDoHGyCI4Z
— Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) January 29, 2023
Sabres coach Don Granato said in scoring his eighth goal this season, a fresh-looking Quinn showcased calmness, confidence and skill.
“He’s giving up some size and strength, obviously, at his age,” he said. “So when he looks fresh, you see a lot more skill out of him. And in that goal there was a lot from just technical edge control, mechanics and skill, to confidence.”
While Quinn, the eighth overall pick in 2020, has displayed notable development, he has struggled to find consistency this season. Following a slow start, he caught fire in late November, scoring five goals over a torrid six-game run.
But entering Wednesday’s contest, he had mustered just two goals in the last 24 games. He and rookie winger JJ Peterka, his linemate, were scratched twice last month.
Quinn, of course, was a prolific scorer on his way to the NHL, recording 52 goals in his last junior season and 26 goals in 46 games with the Rochester Americans last season.
Naturally, when you’re not scoring regularly, it can be hard to tell yourself that you’re doing the right things.
“You’ve done it at other levels, so you’d like to do it at this level,” Quinn said. “But I think everybody understands it’s the best league in the world, it’s really hard. … I know it’s going to take a while, it’s not going to be right away. There’s going to be a lot of games I don’t score.”
On Wednesday, Sabres winger Jeff Skinner became the first player from the 2010 draft class to play 900 NHL games.
After spending his first eight seasons with the Hurricanes, Skinner, who scored a career-high 40 goals for the Sabres in 2018-19, has become a popular teammate and respected veteran presence in Buffalo.
“He is a very special guy to our team,” Granato said. “He just adds something. He has such a personality that, he’s a quiet guy and then all of a sudden, you’re like, wait a minute, why people are migrating toward him and laughing with him? He’s a quiet ringleader is what he is.
“He earns what he gets. He works. What people might not see is he’s a tireless worker.”
Granato said during the Sabres’ recent road trip, he had Skinner, 30, sit in with the coaching staff when he left the room.
“(I) had him just talk with the coaching staff, what he’s seeing, what he’s feeling what he thinks of our group at this particular moment,” he said. “So there’s lots of ways that you can use and we can benefit from his experience, and he’s a very intelligent and intuitive guy.”
Skinner played his first NHL game Oct. 7, 2010 and scored 31 goals as a rookie, winning the Calder Trophy.
“Everyone kind of says it flies by, but that’s kind of what happens when you’re having fun and enjoying the experience,” he said. “So for me, yeah, it’s gone quick, but I think that when you really look back there’s a lot of things that have happened, a lot of relationships you’ve built and friendships you’ve created and those kind of things that you get to carry on with.”
With center Dylan Cozens and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson back from injuries Wednesday, the Sabres scratched forward Rasmus Asplund and defenseman Kale Clague.
Center Tage Thompson, the Sabres’ only NHL All-Star, played after missing Monday’s practice.