BUFFALO – The Sabres’ beleaguered blue line received a much-needed addition Sunday, as Jake McCabe returned after missing 13 games.
Did it help? Well, no. The Columbus Jackets throttled the Sabres 4-0 inside KeyBank Center.
McCabe hadn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury March 2.
Defenseman Marco Scandella, who blocked a shot in Saturday’s ugly 5-1 road loss to the New York Islanders, missed Sunday’s contest. Housley said the Sabres will know more about Scandella’s status today.
McCabe, 25, is perhaps the Sabres’ most versatile defenseman. He also showcases an edge the reeling team has sorely lacked.
“I just like the way he approaches the game,” Housley said. “Obviously, he defends really well, he’s tough to play against, he boxes out well, he’s a big part of his penalty-killing unit, but he also adds to the rush.
“I think anytime you throw your body in harm’s way it gives the bench energy.”
McCabe, who sported an ‘A’ as an alternate captain, skated 20 minutes, 45 seconds Sunday, mostly beside Brandon Montour.
“It’s never easy sitting in the press box watching your buddies battle this last month,” McCabe said. “I was really anxious to get back out there.”
The Sabres made one change up front, inserting Evan Rodrigues for Jason Pominville. An upper-body injury sidelined Rodrigues two games.
On Jan. 30 in Dallas, Pominville, 36, was a healthy scratch for the first time since late in 2005-06, his rookie season. Pominville has been scratched three times in the last eight contests and six times this year.
The Sabres also scratched forward Vladimir Sobotka (upper body) and defenseman Matt Tennyson again (healthy).
Sabres defensemen Zach Bogosian (lower body), Matt Hunwick (upper body) and Rasmus Ristolainen (flu) also missed the game.
Struggling Sabres winger Jeff Skinner didn’t score Sunday, his eighth straight game without a goal.
While Skinner has scored 37 goals in 79 games this season, he has only mustered one in the last 22 outings.
If Skinner, 27, scores again, he will become the third player in franchise history to hit the 38-goal mark in his first season with the Sabres, joining Gilbert Perreault (1970-71) and Ray Sheppard (1987-88).
The Sabres’ last 40-goal scorer was Thomas Vanek in 2008-09.
The Blue Jackets scratched Wheatfield’s Adam Clendening.
Clendening, 26, has spent the bulk of the season with Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters, scoring four goals and 35 points in 42 games.
The defenseman has zero points in four games with the Blue Jackets this year. They recalled him again Saturday.
Since turning pro in 2012, Clendening has played for eight organizations. He also returned to the team that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks, last season.
Clendening has been one of the AHL’s highest-scoring defensemen over the last seven years, compiling 32 goals and 196 points in 303 games.
Sabres rookie winger Alexander Nylander played on the fourth line Sunday, skating only 7 minutes, 24 seconds beside center Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons.
“It wasn’t so much Nylander,” Housley said. “I thought his linemates weren’t feeling it tonight. Obviously, I thought the other lines were going.”