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Toronto
Maple Leafs
40-31-11
Buffalo
Sabres
53-22-7

44 SOG
34 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
TOR
BUF
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Maple Leafs-Sabres Preview

Friday, 03.23.2007 / 8:00 PM

Associated Press

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Maple Leafs-Sabres Preview
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have regained their composure at home, and look to maintain their lead in the Eastern Conference when they begin a home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.

The teams meet again Saturday in Toronto, the final matchup of the season for the Northeast Division rivals.

While the Maple Leafs expect to have defenseman Tomas Kaberle back in the lineup as they continue their fight for a playoff berth, the Sabres are busy trying to solidify their hold onto the conference's top spot. They beat Washington 5-2 on Wednesday night to snap a three-game home losing streak.

Despite the skid, Buffalo (47-19-7) has won three of four overall, earning points in all those games.

"Small things mean a lot and I think we just want to be ramping up at the right time," said Buffalo's Ryan Miller, who made 24 saves Wednesday. "Last 10 games for us is going to be a focal point and tonight was a good step forward."

The Sabres scored a power-play goal for the first time in eight games and had multiple goals with the man advantage for the first time since Feb. 20, when they scored three times against Philadelphia.

"This is definitely what we wanted to clean up," Sabres center Daniel Briere said. "Sometimes it's a good thing to hit the rough patch before you hit the playoffs. And hopefully we're out of it now and we can look forward and come into the playoffs on a roll."

The Sabres have 101 points, the first time they've recorded 100 in consecutive seasons since doing it four straight seasons from 1974-78.

They've won four of six meetings this season with Toronto, though both Maple Leafs victories have come in Buffalo.

Toronto (35-28-10) is battling Carolina, Montreal and the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot in the East. The teams have been separated by only a few points, and each day seems to thrust a new team into eighth place.

"You don't have to be a genius to understand it - we're in a position where every point is big," Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin said.

The return of Kaberle should help immensely. The All-Star defenseman has missed eight games after he was checked into the boards on a late hit by New Jersey's Cam Janssen on March 2, and suffered the first concussion of his career.

The Maple Leafs went 4-3-1 in that span without Kaberle, who remains third on the team with 49 points. He's been skating with the club this week and getting ready to make his return.

"I don't want to play one or two games and not feel good," Kaberle said. "I want to play eight, nine games - the rest of the season - and help the team try to make the playoffs.

"I don't see why I couldn't play on Friday."

Toronto got a bit of revenge against Janssen and the Devils with a 2-1 victory Tuesday night. Janssen - who was suspended three games for the hit - and Toronto's Wade Belak fought early in the first period and the Maple Leafs rode that emotion to their fourth straight home victory.

"We lose one of our best players during this time of the season. I thought it was the appropriate thing to do and he (Belak) did a great job," Sundin said.

Toronto has been outscored 13-4 during a three-game road losing streak.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 24 '07BUF 1 at TOR 4D. Tucker
Mar 23 '07TOR 4 at BUF 5D. Stafford
Mar 03 '07BUF 3 at TOR 1D. Stafford
Feb 27 '07BUF 6 at TOR 1D. Stafford
Jan 11 '07TOR 4 at BUF 2A. Steen
Jan 06 '07BUF 4 at TOR 3A. Kotalik
Nov 22 '06TOR 4 at BUF 7D. Briere
Nov 04 '06TOR 4 at BUF 1D. Tucker
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GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%