Game Preview #43 - Sabres vs Leafs
For the second time this week the Toronto Maple Leafs (22-15-5) will take on the Buffalo Sabres (18-19-5), this time at the First Niagra Centre. Toronto easily defeated the Sabres 2-0 on Tueday night, and these two teams seem to be heading in opposite directions. The Leafs can continue to solidify their playoff positioning with a victory tonight, and should the Sabres lose once again this evening they will fall ten points behind the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.
There really isn't anything different to discuss in terms of tonight's match-up versus Tuesday's. The Leafs will once again start Jonas Gustavsson coming off of a shutout, and the entire lineup will remain the same from that victory. Rookie Jake Gardiner will once again be a healthy scratch (for the third straight game), and there have been discussions regarding sending him down to the Toronto Marlies instead of letting him sit in the press box. It makes sense to let Gardiner get in some game action in the AHL and boost his confidence in the short term once he dominates that league.
The Sabres may or may not be without top sniper Tomas Vanek as he left Tuesday's game with 'food poisoning'. Funny the 'food poisoning' only occurred after Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf hammered him into the boards. I'm sure though that many opposing forwards have accidents in their pants as Phaneuf lowers the boom on them.
With the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils both getting victories this week the Leafs must continue to get results. Look for the Leafs to feed off their fans in Buffalo tonight and come out with a strong start. Keep in mind the Leafs have taken two minor penalties the last three games (all wins) and that discipline play will be key for them against the Sabres.
Lupul - Connolly - Kessel
Kulemin - Grabovski - Crabb
Kadri - Lombardi - MacArthur
Brown - Steckel - Boyce
Aulie - Phaneuf
Gunnarsson - Schenn
Komisarek - Franson
Vanek – Hecht – Pominville
Boyes – Leino – Stafford
Ellis – Adam – McCormick
Gerbe – Gaustad – Kaleta
McNabb – Myers
Leopold – Regehr
Gragnani – Weber
Players to Watch
Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski - Having scored the second goal of the game against Buffalo on Tuesday, Grabo has recorded 8 goals and 14 points in his last 7 games. The Belarussian has been great of late for the Leafs and with Nikolai Kulemin showing signs of life things could be looking up for the Leafs' second line.
Sabres: Ville Leino - The free agent signing has been dreadful this season with only 3 goals and 10 points in his first 31 games after signing a monster 6 year $27 million dollar contract. The Sabres will need him to become the player they thought he was starting tonight if they have any shot at a late playoff push.
Game Time: 7:30 at the First Niagra Centre. TV - TSN. Radio - AM640.