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|BUF||2||2||1||(0 - 0)||5|
Back on track following a four-game slide, the Buffalo Sabres will receive another boost with the anticipated return of their top goaltender.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have lost their starting goalie to a suspension, but have a future Hall of Famer ready to step in.
Buffalo looks to continue its late push toward a playoff spot Friday night as it goes for its eighth win in 10 games against the resurgent Maple Leafs.
The Sabres (35-30-8) still have a chance to secure their first playoff berth in two seasons, but with seven points to make up in the final two weeks of the regular season, every game is a must-win if they're going to grab the eighth and final Eastern Conference spot.
The Sabres snapped their skid and also avoided a third straight loss at HSBC Arena on Wednesday, rallying from a two-goal third-period deficit to defeat Florida 5-3.
"We had to be desperate. This is that time of year," said the Sabres' Jason Pominville after extending his point streak to four games with a goal and two assists - all in the third. "For us to dig deep and get a win, it was a game we had to win, there was no tomorrow."
Buffalo hopes the return of Ryan Miller from a 13-game absence due to a sprained left ankle will help it forget a 4-7-2 stretch without him.
"Any time you get your No. 1 goaltender back, that's a big deal," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We know we have to put a string of games together."
Miller, injured in a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Feb. 21, could be exactly what Buff
alo needs as it goes for its fourth straight win against Toronto. Miller, though, does not see the Sabres' fate strictly in his hands.
"I'm a goalie. I go out and try to stop the puck," said Miller, who needs one win to reach 30 for the fourth straight season. "If I can help make a difference, I want to do it. But by no means a guarantee, by no means a savior."
But Miller is 3-1-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average versus Toronto this season. He earned his 12th career shutout with 16 saves in a 5-0 win over the visiting Maple Leafs on Feb. 4.
Buffalo has won the last three games against Toronto by a combined score of 13-2. In this matchup, however, the Sabres will face 41-year-old Curtis Joseph, who is 3-1-0 with a 2.53 GAA in his last four appearances.
In Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win over Washington, Joseph came on with less than one minute left in regulation after Martin Gerber was thrown out for pushing the referee and firing the puck toward him.
Gerber, 4-3-0 with a 2.89 GAA since being acquired off waivers from Ottawa on March 4, has been suspended three games. He will be eligible to return April 3 against Philadelphia.
Joseph, meanwhile, looks for his 454th career victory as Toronto (31-30-13) tries for its fifth win in six games following a 1-3-0 stretch.
In his only appearance against the Sabres this season, Joseph made 16 saves in a 4-1 loss on Jan. 1 in Toronto. He has just one win and two ties in his last seven starts in Buffalo.
Thomas Vanek, second on the Sabres with 58 points, scored a season-high four points with three goals in the Feb. 4 victory. He has three goals and three assists in 12 games since then after suffering a fractured jaw in a 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa on Feb. 7.
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