In what many have considered to be the Buffalo Sabres’ most complete, entertaining three periods of hockey played so far this young season, the Sabres defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-4, for a rare home victory last Friday at the First Niagara Center.
Tonight, the Sabres travel to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs at The Air Canada Centre in what will be the second meeting of the season for the two long-time rivals.
Coming off of two forgettable losses, the Sabres head to Toronto in search of a win to conclude their current three-game road trip heading into the Christmas break.
The Maple Leafs currently find themselves stuck in the middle of a forgettable losing streak as well as they’ve dropped their last three games, including last week’s contest against the Sabres.
Although the Maple Leafs have failed to achieve a ‘W’ recently, forwards Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul remain one of the league’s most potent 1-2 scoring duos in the entire NHL. Kessel has 19 goals and 39 points while Lupul has 15 goals and 36 points this season playing alongside Kessel.
For the Sabres, forwards Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville continue to provide a similar threat for the team as they are each tied for the team-lead in points with 35 a piece. Pominville leads all Sabres in assists (25) while Vanek has scored a team-high 19 goals and recorded two goals and two assists last week against the Maple Leafs.
James Reimer is coming off an impressive 40-save performance during the Leafs’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday and will likely get the start in net for Toronto while Ryan Miller is expected to start for the Sabres.
Miller has struggled so far this season, compiling a sub-par 8-7-2 record and has surrendered eight goals over his last two games. However, Miller has enjoyed success against the Leafs throughout his career, posting a 25-11-0 record with a 2.33 GAA and four shutouts in 36 games.
Despite the recent struggles, each team will be at an equal disadvantage as they look to overcome an array of injuries.
The Maple Leafs will be without right wing Colby Armstrong for the game as well as center Philippe Dupuis and have recalled the AHL’s November Player of the Month, forward Nazeem Kadri to fill the void.
The Sabres’ injuries are more extensive, although multiple players who had been questionable for the game are also expected to play. Ville Leino, Tyler Ennis, Tyler Myers, Jochen Hecht and Nathan Gerbe have all been ruled out for the contest, but forward Patrick Kaleta is expected to return to the lineup after missing multiple games.
Forwards Thomas Vanek and Paul Szczechura were also nursing injuries in practice on Wednesday but are expected to play.
A regulation win for the Sabres would allow them to leapfrog the seventh-place Leafs as they hold a one-point advantage over Buffalo in the Eastern Conference heading into tonight’s game.
The puck is set drop at 7:00 p.m. EST tonight. The game will be broadcast live on MSG and TSN as well as on the radio at WGR 550.