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Gameday Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (5-9-2-0) at Buffalo Sabres (3-9-3-0).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Buffalo Sabres will try to avoid tying the second-longest winless streak in team history when they conclude a three-game homestand with a matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Buffalo missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1995-96 and just the second time in 16 seasons. The Sabres came into 2002-03 focused on improving their scoring to help them get back to the postseason.

They looked as though they had accomplished that task in the first two games, winning 6-1 and 5-1, but they've scored just 22 goals in 13 games since and are last in the NHL with nine points.

Buffalo is sliding through an 0-7-2 slump for its longest winless streak since a 10-game freefall in 1971. The club record is 12 set in 1991.

The Sabres have had trouble scoring, but now they're having problems stopping opponents. Coach Lindy Ruff's team has allowed 10 goals in the last two games, with the starting goaltender getting pulled each time.

"We're definitely not ham and egging it," Ruff said. "When we had the goaltending we didn't have the offense. Now we're scoring goals but giving up too many."

Toronto started the season with a 6-0 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins, but has since gone winless in four straight road games.

Toronto beat the visiting Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday to snap a two-game losing streak, and won for just the third time in its last 11 overall.

Mats Sundin scored his second goal of the game 3:20 into overtime to rescue Toronto, which had blown a three-goal lead.

"It was a big relief," Sundin said. "We couldn't believe when they tied the game. We played good enough for most of the game to win. It was nice. These are important games for us.

"I'm the captain. There is responsibility to make sure we have a good dressing room, to make sure we are playing up to our ability, which we haven't been. I put pressure on myself."

STANDINGS (through Nov. 13):
Maple Leafs - 12 points, 4th place, 11 PB, Northeast Division.
Sabres - 9 points, 5th place, 14 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS:
Maple Leafs - Sundin, 9 goals; Alexander Mogilny, 11 assists; Sundin and Mogilny, 19 points; Tie Domi, 36 PIM.
Sabres - Chris Gratton, 6 goals, 10 assists and 16 points; Eric Boulton, 86 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 13):
Maple Leafs - Power play: 19.5 percent (17 for 87), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.2 percent (79 for 95), 16th.
Sabres - Power play: 11.8 percent (10 for 85), 26th. Penalty killing: 85.1 percent (80 for 94), 10th.

GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (4-5-2, 1 SO, 2.69 GAA); Trevor Kidd (1-4-0, 4.23).
Sabres - Martin Biron (3-5-2, 2.51); Mika Noronen (0-4-1, 2.75).

2001-02 SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 2-1-2.

LAST MEETING: March 23; Maple Leafs, 2-0. At Toronto, Domi and Mogilny each scored to lead the Leafs.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS:
Maple Leafs - 1-3-1-0 on the road;
Sabres - 2-4-1-0 at home.
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