Game Preview #42 - Leafs vs Sabres

 

Tonight will mark the first of two encounters this week between the Toronto Maple Leafs (21-15-5) and the Buffalo Sabres (18-18-5). In what will definitely be an important home and home series for these divisional rivals, the Leafs must continue their strong play at home (11-5-4 including three straight wins), while the Sabres are entering the ACC on a six game road losing streak.

Buffalo has certainly struggled of late going 2-6-2 in their last ten games causing them to drop to 11th in the Eastern Conference seven points behind the 7th place Leafs. Both teams have won at home in the two previous meetings this season. In games between these two teams the stats are usually thrown out considering the Sabres dominance over the Leafs in recent seasons.

What will be key for the Leafs is that they continue their discipline play. Toronto has taken two minor penalties (one in each game) in their past two contests. Buffalo has scored on 4 of 12 power play opportunities against the Leafs this season, so the penalty kill will be a key tonight.

Jonas Gustavsson will start his fourth straight game for the blue and white as he is coming off of three wins in a row. Toronto will need to utilize their speed and exploit the Sabres' weak blueline. Ryan Miller will be in between the pipes for the Sabres look for the Leafs to get plenty of traffic in front of the notorious Leaf killer.

Lineups

Leafs

Forwards

Lupul - Connolly - Kessel
Kulemin - Grabovski - Crabb
Kadri - Lombardi - MacArthur
Brown - Steckel - Boyce

Defense

Aulie - Phaneuf
Gunnarsson - Schenn
Komisarek - Franson

Goalies

Gustavsson
Reimer

Sabres

Forwards

Vanek - Hecht - Pominville
Boyes - Leino - Stafford
Ellis - Adam - McCormick
Gerbe - Gaustad - Kaleta

Defense

McNabb - Myers
Leopold - Regehr
Gragnani - Weber

Goalies

Miller
Enroth

Players to Watch

Leafs: Tim Connolly - The former Sabre has four points in five games since replacing the injured Tyler Bozak on the first line. He has been strong at both ends of the ice and contributed well on the PK and PP. Connolly is beginning to develop some chemistry with the dynamic duo of Kessel and Lupul.

Sabres: Tomas Vanek - Buffalo's star sniper has two goals in two games against the buds this season. Vanek is a true sniper in this league, and the Leafs must keep an eye on him if they are going to be successful tonight.

Game Time:  7:00 at the Air Canada Centre. TV - Sportsnet Ontario. Radio - AM640.