A win would be nice for both Sabres, Maple Leafs
Saturday, 11.06.2010 / 7:00 PM
SABRES (3-9-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (5-5-2)
TV: CBC (HD), NHLN-US (HD), MSG-B (HD)
Buffalo 2-7-1; Toronto 3-5-2
First of six meetings this season between these Northwest Division rivals. Buffalo won the first five on the 2009-10 slate to extend its overall win streak against Toronto to 10 in a row. The Maple Leafs finally snapped it with a 4-2 win on April 1. Thirteen different Sabres scored at least once, with Derek Roy's 3 goals leading the way.
Buffalo is in a bad position to start the season, tied for the fewest points in the NHL with eight despite the fact only New Jersey and Chicago have played more games. At least the Sabres can embark on this three-game road trip knowing they're a respectable 3-3-1 away from HSBC Arena, where they're still searching for their first win. Toronto, meanwhile, is trying to rediscover the form it displayed during a season-opening four-game winning streak.
Adding injury to insult for Buffalo is the fact Ryan Miller will be watching from the press box for the third-straight game as he nurses a lower-body injury. Miller was in goal for each of the Sabres' 10 wins over the Leafs the past two seasons. Patrick Lalime made 29 saves Friday against the Canadiens, but the Sabres lost 3-2 after being unable to hold a pair of one-goal leads created by Mike Grier and Jordan Leopold.
"It's frustrating when you're losing games," Grier said. "You're in it to win, and we all take pride in being professionals. We think we're a good team, but right now we're shooting ourselves in the foot."
While the standings show Toronto with a five-point lead over Buffalo, the Maple Leafs haven't had any more success over the past several weeks, with just one win in their last eight games. They've scored only 13 goals over that span, four of them coming Wednesday in a hard-fought, 5-4 overtime loss to the Capitals. Mike Brown
, Kris Versteeg
and Tyler Bozak
erased a 3-1 third-period deficit with goals in a span of 3:03, but the Leafs failed to hold the lead.
"The third period, I thought we played great," coach Ron Wilson said. "We pressured the puck, had a good power play, scored some goals, took the lead."
Leopold has proven to be a shrewd signing by the Sabres -- his goal Friday was his fourth of the season, second among NHL defensemen only to Dustin Byfuglien's five. … Nikolai Kulemin
has goals in consecutive games for the Maple Leafs.
In addition to Miller being out, forward Drew Stafford left Buffalo's game Friday with an upper-body injury that could be significant and forward Nathan Gerbe on injured reserve with a broken jaw.
Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf
is out 4-6 weeks after surgery to repair a deep laceration to his left leg in Tuesday's game against Ottawa, and forward Colby Armstrong
will miss a similar amount of time following surgery on a finger he hurt in an Oct. 26 game against Florida.
Veteran forward Mike Grier scored his first of the season Friday, leaving Jochen Hecht and Rob Niedermayer as the only forwards on the Sabres who have played at least 13 games and are still goalless. … Brown finished with seven shots against the Capitals, accounting for a quarter of the Leafs' total of 28 for the game.
Lalime let in a stoppable shot on the winning goal Friday and it's the second night of a back-to-back, so Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff could opt to give rookie Jhonas Enroth his third career start. Enroth was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period Wednesday against Boston. Either way, Toronto won't be upset at avoiding Miller, who put on a clinic last season in front of the coach (Wilson) and general manager (Brian Burke) responsible for bringing him to Vancouver as a member of the U.S. Olympic team.