Sabers rookie Jack Quinn gains confidence and begins scoring goals

BUFFALO — The first quarter of Sabers rookie Jack Quinn’s season can be broken down into three parts.

At first, Quinn, 21, looked overwhelmed. So he sat out two games as part of the Sabers’ forward rotation and took the opportunity to catch his breath and see the game from a new perspective. The time helped him develop a better understanding of the team’s system and the intensity required to compete.

When the slick winger returned he looked more engaged and started to cause offense. His confidence soared and it felt like he might break out at any moment.

On Wednesday, Quinn put on a dynamic display alongside linemates Dylan Cozens and JJ Peterka, scoring twice in the third half in the Sabers’ 6-2 win over the St. Louis Blues at the noisy KeyBank Center.

He tripled his season total in six minutes, hitting from the right circle at 12:44 before holding the puck in a two-for-one and deftly pulling goalie Jordan Binnington out at 18:43.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Quinn also recorded four shots on goal Wednesday while playing a career-high 17 minutes.

“He just plays everywhere on the ice,” said Cozens after the game. “…He just takes so many shots for himself. I know he got frustrated there when they didn’t go in and he got all those chances. I just told him to stick with it, they will come and if they come they will keep coming.

“You saw he gets one and then another. That is enormous for him and for confidence in the future.”

After hitting a career-record six shots on Tuesday in Tuesday’s 7-2 away win over the Montreal Canadiens, Quinn felt like he was on the verge of scoring.

“I felt a little bit … because our line was playing so well and how many chances we were getting,” said Quinn, who has three goals and nine points in 15 games this season. “Eventually you’ll hope someone walks in when you get as many looks as we do.”

Sabers coach Don Granato said: “Jack has been a lot more confident especially in the last two games where he’s been fighting hard, winning puck fights. He’s really developed in the last few weeks.”

Since returning from an undisclosed injury on Saturday, Quinn has run on the right wing alongside Cozens (21) and Peterka (20), another rookie. Cozens, who is seven months older than Quinn, has played in 140 NHL games, 101 more than his linemates combined.

It is of course unusual to see three neophytes playing together. Still, Granato feels comfortable using them together.

In just over 41 minutes of ice time together, Quinn, Cozens and Peterka generated a 65.5 percent Corsi For, the second-highest number among regular Sabers linemates, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

“They’re all very intelligent, intuitive hockey players,” said Granato, whose Sabers host the New Jersey Devils on Friday. “Your confidence is growing fast.”

Granato often talks about how Quinn, the eighth overall pick of 2020, is targeting areas that need improvement. In recent weeks he has been working closely with assistant coaches Jason Christie and Matt Ellis.

“He’s taking more and more of what we expect from him and what the other players are like in this league and how challenging they are in different situations,” said Granato. “So situational awareness, and he picked it up quickly to the point where it’s now second nature to him. This doesn’t break his confidence. He reads a play faster. He recognizes danger faster. He reads opportunities faster. And he has gained more comfort as a result.”

Sabers winger Jeff Skinner has put on a dominant display in the last two competitions, scoring a whopping four goals and seven points. After a five-point night on Tuesday, he scored at the 18-second mark against the Blues, beating Binnington high off the goal-line. He later added a power play goal.

When Skinner is at his game, Granato said, “He usually deals with umpires, linesmen, and opposing players.”

“It’s kind of a barometer,” Granato said.

Skinner loves Barking on the ice and off the bench.

“When we see him with that emotional energy just bursting out and I usually get a warning or two from the officials and a lot of ‘beaks’ going back to the visiting bench or the opposing bench, you know he’s in his game. Then he is the best. He is fully committed and his competitiveness just increases in such situations.

“And when that happens, of course, you see the talent.”

Remarks: The Toronto Maple Leafs ended the Devils’ franchise-record streak of 13 wins with a 2-1 win on Wednesday. … Sabers defenseman Jacob Bryson didn’t play in Wednesday’s third period. … The Sabers had Thursday off.

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