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Gameday Preview: Leafs at Sabres

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (37-25-4-1) at Buffalo Sabres (19-32-8-6).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

Home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs is slipping away from the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are hoping Owen Nolan can change that.

The Maple Leafs could have newly acquired Nolan in the lineup when they visit the Buffalo Sabres.

Toronto traded center Alyn McCauley, center Brad Boyes and a first-round draft pick on Wednesday to the San Jose Sharks for Nolan, once considered one of the premier power forwards in the league.

Despite missing the Sharks' game against Edmonton on Tuesday because of a sore back, the 31-year-old right wing was fourth on the team in scoring, with 22 goals and 42 points in 61 games.

In 836 career games, spanning 13 seasons, the Nolan has 323 goals, 352 assists and 1,474 penalty minutes.

With Ottawa holding a comfortable lead atop the Northeast Division, the best the Maple Leafs can hope for is fourth place in the East and home-ice in the first round of the playoffs. The streaking Philadelphia Flyers, however, have opened a four-point lead over Toronto for the fourth seed.

In a game marred by 163 penalty minutes, the Leafs lost to the Senators 4-1 on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, forwards Darcy Tucker and Tie Domi were suspended by the league for their roles in several altercations. Tucker and Domi, who were charged with 71 of the 75 penalty minutes in the third period alone, were suspended five and three games, respectively.

"I don't think I've seen a team win a hockey game where you're in the box as much as we were," said captain Mats Sundin, who was held pointless and is still two shy of 1,000 for his career. "I mean, it's impossible at this level." Alexander Mogilny was also held without a point, snapping his nine-game streak. He had five goals and nine assists during the run.

Toronto is 18-41-6 all-time in Buffalo and has not beaten the Sabres there in the same season since 1977-78. The Leafs defeated the Sabres 3-1 at HSBC Arena on Nov. 15.

The last-place Sabres continue to keep games close, but haven't been rewarded with many wins of late.

Martin Biron allowed a pair of soft goals Tuesday in a 2-1 loss to the visiting Washington Capitals.

Buffalo, among the league's worst teams, has just one win in its last five (1-2-1-1).

Left wing Miroslav Satan, the subject of numerous trade rumors with the deadline looming on Tuesday, has three goals and eight points in his last six games.

STANDINGS: Maple Leafs - 79 points, 2nd place, 11 PB, Northeast Division.
Sabres - 52 points, 5th place, 38 PB, Northeast Division.

Maple Leafs - Sundin, 30 goals; Mogilny, 43 assists and 70 points; Domi, 155 PIM.
Sabres - Satan, 23 goals, 34 assists and 57 points; Eric Boulton, 137 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 4):
Maple Leafs - Power play: 16.8 percent (51 for 303), 15th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.9 percent (304 for 350), 3rd.
Sabres - Power play: 13.0 percent (37 for 284), 27th. Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (248 for 292), 9th.

Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (30-18-3, 6 SO, 2.29 GAA); Trevor Kidd (6-7-1, 3.03).
Sabres - Biron (13-23-6, 4, 2.45 GAA); Mika Noronen (0-7-1, 3.28).

SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 24; Sabres, 4-0. At Buffalo, N.Y., Biron made 27 saves in his third straight shutout, and Satan had two goals and two assists.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 16-13-2-1 on the road; Sabres - 12-15-4-1 at home.
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