March 15, 2004
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (38-22-9-3) at Buffalo Sabres (31-31-6-3).
TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST., Rogers Sportsnet
With his team slipping in the standings, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn is not pleased.
Looking to avoid their fourth loss in five games, the Maple Leafs will need to play better when they face a Buffalo Sabres team desperate for points.
Toronto's 1-3 slump has dropped it from first place to third in the competitive Northeast Division. The Maple Leafs' latest loss was a 4-3 defeat Saturday against the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens, who trail Toronto by three points.
"I don't like how we're playing right now," Quinn said. "Our big line didn't have a sniff all night. They played against their checking line and got nothing because they didn't work for it."
The acquisition of veteran center Ron Francis was supposed to spark the Leafs. Francis recorded his first point with his new team with an assist Saturday, but Toronto has lost its first two games with Francis in the lineup.
The Maple Leafs, in first place at the beginning of the week, have fallen behind Ottawa and Boston.
The Sabres, five points behind the New York Islanders for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, squandered a pair of chances to gain more points this week.
Buffalo blew leads against Boston in each game of a home-and-home series and lost both contests in overtime.
The Sabres had a two-goal advantage at the FleetCenter on Saturday before Nick Boyton's fluke goal sparked a Boston comeback. The Bruins won 3-2 on Mike Knuble's goal with 3.9 seconds left in the extra period.
"It was weird," said Sabres goalie Martin Biron, who stopped 36 shots but allowed Boynton's 180-foot goal. "I probably won't see that again in five years."
STANDINGS (through March 13): Maple Leafs - 88 points, 3rd place, 3 PB, Northeast Division. Sabres - 71 points, 5th place, 20 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Mats Sundin, 27 goals, 40 assists and 67 points; Tie Domi, 201 PIM. Sabres - Miroslav Satan, 27 goals; Daniel Briere, 31 assists and 55 points; Andrew Peters, 124 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 13): Maple Leafs - Power play: 19.9 percent (66 for 331), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (283 for 335), 11th. Sabres - Power play: 15.7 percent (49 for 312), 18th. Penalty killing: 85.1 percent (257 for 302), 6th.
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (28-17-5, 7 SO, 2.17 GAA); Trevor Kidd (5-5-2, 1, 3.15). Sabres - Mika Noronen (11-15-2, 2, 2.47); Biron (20-16-4, 1, 2.65).
SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 3-0-1.
LAST MEETING: March 6; Sabres, 5-1. At Toronto, Satan had a goal and two assists, and Biron made 32 saves to lift the Sabres.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 18-10-7-1 on the road; Sabres - 18-12-4-2 at home.-- Associated Press