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Game Day Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (25-18-4-1) at Buffalo Sabres (14-23-7-2).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Toronto Maple Leafs could have All-Star goaltender Ed Belfour back in the lineup Friday when they make the short trip to Buffalo for a meeting with the improving Sabres.

Belfour, in the midst of a superb first season in Toronto, had missed the past three games with back spasms. He intends to return either Friday or Saturday at home against the Colorado Avalanche.

"I have to get back into the nets," Belfour said after practice Thursday.

Ed Belfour is back between the pipes.
Graig Abel Photography
"Stay out of the nets too long and you can get a bit rusty." If Belfour is unable to play Friday, either Trevor Kidd or Mikael Tellqvist will get the start. Kidd has been nursing a groin injury.

After winning their first two games without Belfour, the Leafs had a 13-game home unbeaten streak snapped Tuesday with a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Tellqvist allowed three goals on 26 shots in his first start of the season as Toronto suffered its first loss at the Air Canada Centre since Nov. 16.

Belfour and Kidd are not the only Maple Leafs with injuries. Leading scorer Alexander Mogilny (back), defensemen Jyrki Lumme (shoulder) and Wade Belak (abdominal strain) and forward Tom Fitzgerald (rib) will all be game-time decisions Friday.

While Toronto is battling for playoff position, Buffalo is likely too far behind the top eight teams to make a push for the postseason, but has been a vastly improved club of late.

Martin Biron stopped 23 shots for his second straight shutout as the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins skated to a 0-0 tie Tuesday.

The Sabres are 4-0-2 in their last six and 6-1-2 in January. They entered the third period Tuesday tied 0-0 for the fourth straight game, going 2-0-2 during that stretch.

"That's 15 of our last 20 points, points in nine of our last 10 games," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've put together a pretty nice run. We've put together almost a pretty solid month of hockey." Biron and rookie Ryan Miller have combined to limit opponents to six goals during the six-game unbeaten streak.

"They're making us look like a real good defensive club right now," Ruff said. "When we make mistakes, they've done a nice job."

STANDINGS (through Jan. 22):
Maple Leafs - 55 points, 2nd place, 13 PB, Northeast Division.
Sabres - 37 points, 5th place, 31 PB, Northeast Division.

Maple Leafs - Mogilny, 21 goals, 29 assists and 50 points; Tie Domi, 94 PIM.
Sabres - Miroslav Satan, 16 goals and 39 points; Satan and Chris Gratton, 23 assists; Eric Boulton, 126 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 22):
Maple Leafs - Power play: 18.5 percent (40 for 216), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.4 percent (209 for 239), 2nd.
Sabres - Power play: 11.9 percent (26 for 218), 29th. Penalty killing: 86.0 percent (190 for 221), 7th.

Maple Leafs - Belfour (21-12-3, 5 SO, 2.07 GAA); Tellqvist (1-1-0, 3.34).
Sabres - Biron (9-16-5, 3, 2.38); Miller (5-3-1, 1, 2.18).

Maple Leafs, 2-0.

Nov. 30; Maple Leafs, 3-1. At Toronto, Mogilny had a goal and two assists, and Mats Sundin and Robert Svehla also scored for the Leafs.

Maple Leafs - 9-10-2-1 on the Maple Leafs;
Sabres - 8-10-4-1 at home.
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