Sabers Notes: Peyton Krebs struggles back from scratch health

BUFFALO – The Sabers recently stopped their forward spin, so anyone who sits as a healthy scratch these days is probably ineffective, not caught in the numbers game.

Down the stretch last season, center Peyton Cribbs, 21, has established himself as one of the Sabers’ best young forwards. But in 16 games this year going into Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, he’s struggled, having zero goals, three assists and only ten shots on goal. He also lost his usual position in the power game.

The Sabers Crips scratched in a 7-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Coach Don Granato said he returned Wednesday to replace winger Rasmus Asplund, who suffers day after day from an upper body injury.

“Maybe he could have played, but the style we need to play him, he’s better off (resting),” Granato said before the game at KeyBank Center.

Krebs, who had recently been playing left wing, pivoted Zemgus Girgensons and newcomer Tyson Ghost against the Blues.

Naturally, Krebs “had a confidence challenge,” Granato said. He attributed some of Krebs’ problems to injuries the Sabers had on defense.

The defense force reached full strength when Matthias Samuelsson returned on Tuesday, which meant the duo

“It’s tough when the back end on the defensive side is down,” he said. “So it’s going to curb everyone’s offense. It’s going to curb (Casey) Mittelstadt’s offense, for example. Because if you look at the analytics, we have (Rasmus) Dahlin and (Owen) a lot of energy with the (Tage) Thompson line, which means the lines The other one does not have the attacking power of these guys. …

“That was part of that for all the guys[are you]with on the ice? Is he a more offensive defensive guy or did we have a lot of guys who were just trying to keep it simple with the puck, not focus so much on offense? So I guess This affected Krebs a bit as he was clearly down, his confidence wasn’t what it was last year.And that’s it.

“He played with a little bit of anxiety and I think that’s the solution.”

Sabers captain Kyle Okposo, who has played the last six games and recovered from a lower-body injury, skated alone again Wednesday and will be back with his teammates to skate Friday morning, Granato said.

St. Louis head coach Craig Berube was an assistant coach when Thompson, the Sabers’ top center, played his first 41 NHL games with the Blues in 2017-18.

Thompson, of course, has turned into a superstar over the past year. He started Wednesday’s game with 13 goals and 26 points in 19 games.

Five years ago, he was a lanky 6-foot-6 freshman.

“Great kid, great skill,” Berube said. “He was young and immature at the time, physically not mentally. Now he’s a very good player. There probably weren’t many people who thought he was going to become a really good player. He had ability, he had a great shot. He has a really good personality.”

“Now, he’s a mature man, he’s stronger, and he’s an elite player.”

The Sabers scratched defensemen Casey Fitzgerald and Lawrence Pilot (both healthy) for the second straight game.

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