TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.
Despite losing seven of their last eight games, the Buffalo Sabres are one point away from clinching their first playoff berth since 2000-01.
The Sabres visit the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first of back-to-back meetings between the Northeast Division rivals. Buffalo has earned a point in all five meetings with Toronto this season, getting four wins and a shootout loss.
The Sabres are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and will make the postseason with a point Saturday, or if ninth-place Atlanta ties or loses to Carolina.
Buffalo recorded its season-high eighth straight win against the Leafs on March 16, but has gone 1-6-1 since.
The Sabres outshot New Jersey 16-8 in the first period Thursday, but couldn't score and went on to lose 3-1.
"We played a very good road game for two periods," said the Sabres' Martin Biron, who finished with 25 saves. "We were all over them. Marty (Brodeur) made some big saves that kept them in the game. If we play like that on the road, defensively and crashing the net, we'll be OK."
Tim Connolly scored a goal to extend his point streak to six games, with three goals and six assists in that span. The Sabres center has three goals and three assists in two games against the Leafs this season.
Buffalo's Daniel Briere will serve the final game of a two-game suspension Saturday for hitting Boston's Brian Leetch with a high stick in Wednesday's victory. Briere has eight goals and 18 assists in 16 games after missing two months while recovering from sports hernia surgery.
Defenseman Teppo Numminen sprained his knee Wednesday and is day-to-day for the Sabres, who have lost a season-high five straight on the road. Buffalo has done well in Toronto of late, however, going 3-0-1 in its last four games at the Air Canada Centre and scoring 22 goals in those contests.
The Leafs will be well-rested for Saturday's matchup, having been off since a 3-2 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Mats Sundin had a goal and an assist, while Alexei Ponikarovsky and Alex Steen scored early in the third period to help the Leafs to their second straight win and fourth in six games. Backup goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin, recalled from the AHL on March 14, made 28 saves in his second start of the season.
Toronto is in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, well out of the eighth and final spot, and is in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997-98.
"We obviously understand that we're in a spot where we're probably going to have to win a lot of our games," Sundin said. "We're going to do everything we can to make it into the playoffs."
The Leafs play their next three games at home, where they've won four in a row.
STANDINGS: Sabres - 96 points, 2nd place, 9 PB, Northeast Division. Maple Leafs - 74 points, 4th place, 31 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Chris Drury, 25 goals; Maxim Afinogenov, 39 assists; Drury and Afinogenov, 58 points; Andrew Peters, 77 PIM. Maple Leafs - Darcy Tucker, 24 goals; Tomas Kaberle, 51 assists; Bryan McCabe, 63 points and 110 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sabres - Power play: 20.8 percent (90 for 433), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.3 percent (341 for 395), 3rd. Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.4 percent (90 for 441), 4th. Penalty killing: 79.3 percent (349 for 440), 25th.
GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Ryan Miller (26-12-3, 2.62 GAA); Biron (18-8-3, 2.95). Maple Leafs - Aubin (2-0-0, 2.50); Mikael Tellqvist (10-10-2, 2 SO, 3.00).
SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 4-1.
LAST MEETING: March 16; Sabres, 3-1. At Buffalo, N.Y., Drury had two goals and an assist, and Mike Grier scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period to lead the Sabres to their eighth consecutive win.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 21-12-3 on the road; Maple Leafs - 21-12-2 at home.
|Apr 16 '06||TOR 0 at BUF 6||B. Campbell|
|Apr 03 '06||BUF 3 at TOR 2 - SO||M. Afinogenov|
|Apr 01 '06||BUF 0 at TOR 7||J. O'Neill|
|Mar 16 '06||TOR 1 at BUF 3||M. Grier|
|Mar 03 '06||TOR 2 at BUF 6||D. Briere|
|Jan 26 '06||BUF 8 at TOR 4||J. Pominville|
|Dec 29 '05||BUF 3 at TOR 4 - SO||M. Sundin|
|Nov 11 '05||TOR 2 at BUF 5||T. Connolly|