Leafs Battle New-Look Sabres in Buffalo
MAPLE LEAFS (11-6-1) at SABRES (4-15-1)
TV: SNET-O, MSG-B, BELL TV
Last 10: Toronto 5-4-1; Buffalo 3-7-0
Season series: This is the first of five games between these Atlantic Division teams, with another Saturday. The Buffalo Sabres were 2-1-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2012-13.
Big story: Interim coach Ted Nolan makes his return to the Buffalo bench after compiling a 73-72-19 record from 1995-97. Nolan was hired Wednesday, along with Pat LaFontaine as director of hockey operations, when Sabres owner Terry Pegula fired general manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston. The new leadership takes over the last-place team in the NHL, although the Sabres did manage their first home win of the season Tuesday, a 3-2 shootout decision against the Los Angeles Kings.
"We know that there will be a different face behind the bench and there'll be motivation for players from the Buffalo side to make a first impression," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle told the team website Thursday. "... It is a shock to the organization and the people involved, at the ice level specifically."
Maple Leafs: Toronto will play without center Nazem Kadri, who was suspended three games by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Thursday for a goalie interference penalty against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. Centers Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland are on injured reserve.
"There's always the option of bringing a guy up from the American Hockey League," Carlyle said prior to learning Kadri was suspended. "We've explored different avenues, multiple. So it's not like you have to have Plan A, B, C, D and E in the drawer here.
"That's what the life of a hockey coach and management team is, and when you go through situations like this you try to make the best decision that's going to give you the best possible chance to have success with the people that you have here."
The Maple Leafs had won four of five games before dropping two straight on this three-game road trip.
"You can't sugarcoat it, [the missing centers] are obviously a big part of our team and a big part of our success," center Jay McClement said. "But I think we have enough depth ... that we can hold the fort here and continue to plug away and hopefully win some games until we get some guys back."
Sabres: According to Chris Ryndak of buffalosabres.com, Nolan had his assistant coaches run practice Wednesday but Thursday he demanded a fast-paced, physical session with some players practicing at different positions, including rookie Zemgus Girgensons at center for the first time, with Steve Ott and Tyler Ennis flanking him.
Though the practice reportedly was intense, Girgensons said he was satisfied with the new coaching style.
"[Nolan] wants simple hockey but you have to play hard. He wants all the guys going 100 percent," Girgensons told the website. "If you're not going to do that, most likely you're not even going to be out there. He wants the guys to compete, and I think that's what we need in this team right now."
Forward John Scott is eligible to return to the lineup after completing his seven-game suspension for a hit on Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson on Oct. 23.
Who's hot: It hadn't been confirmed Thursday who would start in goal for Toronto. Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have combined for a 1.54 goals-against average over the past seven games. ... Sabres forward Matt Moulson has two goals and six assists in seven games since coming from the New York Islanders in a late-October trade.
Injury report: Bolland (ankle) and Bozak (lower body) are on injured reserve. ... Sabres defenseman Mike Weber (thumb) is on IR.