The Buffalo Sabres are without their top two centers from last season. They may not miss them too much if their defense continues to contribute offensively.
The Sabres look to build on two straight dominant victories Monday night when they face the Northeast Division rival Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time this season.
Since opening with back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders, the Sabres (2-2-0) have looked every bit like the league's highest-scoring team from last season in wins over Atlanta and Washington.
Buffalo scored three power-play goals Thursday in a 6-0 victory over the Thrashers, then registered 53 shots Saturday in a 7-3 win over the Capitals.
Jaroslav Spacek scored twice and fellow defenseman Brian Campbell added four assists Saturday for Buffalo, which lost star centers Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency in the offseason.
"I think we played pretty good in the second game against the Islanders, but just didn't get any points," Spacek said. "After we got home it was tough, but we had some time off after that game and worked hard in practice."
Without the 69 goals and 164 points that Drury and Briere provided, the Sabres will need production from other sources to remain successful. Center Derek Roy is the only forward with more than two goals, but Spacek and Campbell have combined for five goals and 15 points.
Campbell is Buffalo's leading scorer and tops NHL defensemen with nine points, while Spacek already has four goals in four games after he recording five in 65 games last year.
"Right now they are making nice plays back there," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff told the team's official Web site. "(Spacek) is getting the shots through and it's finding some holes. Some of them are going through masses of people but we are getting the opportunities."
Also being counted on to help compensate for the missing offense is center Tim Connolly, who was limited to two games last season due to post-concussion symptoms. He's tied for third on the team with five points.
Buffalo's Ryan Miller is 5-1-0 with a 2.51 goals-against average and one shutout in six home games against Toronto.
One game after a stellar performance in an 8-1 win over the Islanders, the Maple Leafs (2-3-1) struggled defensively in a 6-4 home loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Mats Sundin, Jason Blake and Nik Antropov each had a goal and an assist for Toronto, which has allowed four goals or more in half of its six games.
Vesa Toskala made 46 saves - one shy of his career high. He is 1-3-0 with a 4.48 GAA this season.
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal on the power play with 5:22 remaining.
"I feel sorry for Vesa, he's kicking 50 shots aside," forward Alex Steen said. "We're taking too many penalties and they took advantage at the end."
Sundin is showing no signs of slowing down in his 17th season. The Toronto captain has a point in every game and ranks among the league leaders with 10 points.
The Sabres went 5-3-0 against the Maple Leafs last season, splitting four home games. Buffalo is 10-4-0 in the past 14 meetings overall.
|Apr 01 '08||BUF 4 at TOR 3 - SO||M. Afinogenov|
|Mar 21 '08||TOR 4 at BUF 1||D. Tucker|
|Mar 15 '08||BUF 6 at TOR 2||D. Stafford|
|Feb 21 '08||BUF 5 at TOR 1||T. Vanek|
|Feb 13 '08||TOR 0 at BUF 1||P. Gaustad|
|Jan 19 '08||BUF 2 at TOR 4||A. Ponikarovsky|
|Nov 09 '07||TOR 3 at BUF 0||B. McCabe|
|Oct 15 '07||TOR 4 at BUF 5 - OT||P. Gaustad|