Sabres desperate for win in rematch with Maple Leafs
Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 11:16 PMMAPLE LEAFS (34-36-9) at SABRES (38-31-10)
TV: SNET-O (HD), MSG-B (HD)
Toronto 4-5-1; Buffalo 6-2-2
Sixth and final meeting between these Northeast Division rivals, and the conclusion of a home-and-home that began Saturday in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs damaged the Sabres' postseason aspirations with a 4-3 victory. Buffalo will attempt to continue a trend in which the home team has won all five matchups this season.
Games in Philadelphia on Thursday and Boston on Saturday still remain on Buffalo's schedule after Tuesday, but if the Sabres can't come up with two points against the Maple Leafs then it's likely this will be their last game at First Niagara Center until the fall.
By winning its final three games against Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Montreal, the opportunity still exists for Toronto -- which will miss the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season -- to finish with a better than .500 points percentage. The Maple Leafs can also finish what they started on home ice against the Sabres, with Joey Crabb
's shorthanded goal and Phil Kessel
's power-play strike sparking the effort Saturday. In his first NHL appearance since Nov. 20, rookie Ben Scrivens stopped 29 shots for the victory.
"You want to come out and be confident, that's how I play the game," he said. "When I am with the (AHL) Marlies, I am trying to play that same game. It's not a matter of trying to do one thing or another for a specific situation. I play best when I am at the top of the crease when I am in a good ready stance and when I can play the puck and help the guys break the puck out. The intention was just to play my game."
In a matter of days, Buffalo went from looking dominant during a win in Washington that allowed the Sabres to take over eighth in the Eastern Conference to dropping consecutive games against the Penguins and Maple Leafs to fall back into ninth while the Capitals subsequently went on a win streak. They never led in the game at Air Canada Centre and were forced to play without standout defenseman Tyler Myers
after he suffered a foot injury against Pittsburgh. Ryan Miller
stopped 25 shots, but didn't play his best game.
"We scored some goals tonight, so I didn't need to be perfect," Miller said afterward. "But I needed to make another save or two."
Crabb has 2 goals and 4 assists in his last five games for the Maple Leafs. … Drew Stafford
has 7 goals and 9 assists in his last 10 games for the Sabres. Tyler Ennis
has 7 goals and 10 assists in his last 11 games.
Scrivens figures to get the call again Tuesday for Toronto with both James Reimer
(upper body) and Jonas Gustavsson
(lower body) ailing. Also sidelined are forwards Joffrey Lupul
(shoulder) and Nikolai Kulemin
(finger), while forwards David Steckel
(lower body) and Mikhail Grabovski
(leg) are day-to-day. … Myers, fellow defenseman Mike Weber
(upper body) and forward Nathan Gerbe
(upper body) are all day-to-day for Buffalo, while defenseman Christian Ehrhoff
(knee) and forward Matt Ellis
(knee) are out indefinitely.
Crabb leads Maple Leafs scorers in the series with 6 points, while Jason Pominville
and Thomas Vanek
each have 6 points to pace the Sabres. … Miller has played every minute in the five previous games, posting a 3.04 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff is not one to make excuses, but he knows what his team is up against when both Weber and Myers are out of the lineup -- particularly when the Sabres must play from behind as was the case Saturday.
"To try and chase a game with two of our more mobile defenseman out of the lineup that are on the offense side of [things], it's tough to chase," Ruff said. "You're gonna make some mistakes, you're going to give up some high-quality opportunities."