Andrew MacWilliam is slated to make his NHL debut tonight for the Leafs when they take on the Buffalo Sabres at Air Canada Centre. Jonathan Bernier will get the start in goal for the Leafs — his fifth straight.
The Leafs are expected to ice a very similar lineup to the one that took the New York Islanders to overtime on Monday night. A couple of tweaks appeared to give new life to a few Leafs forwards, including James van Riemsdyk who scored the third goal of the game for Toronto.
"We want JVR to be the power forward we know he can be," Toronto interim coach Peter Horachek said. "He took the puck to the net hard a few times against the Islanders. We need him to take more of a prominent role on the team."
The Leafs also announced that Nazem Kadri will be held out of the lineup until Saturday at the earliest for disciplinary reasons.
Anders Lindback will start in goal for the Sabres who have lost four consecutive games. There will also be a familiar face in the lineup for Buffalo as Jerry D'Amigo will suit up.
D'Amigo is looking to make an impression with Sabres management down the stretch.
“I think Teddy’s getting a little more comfortable with me and having a little more confidence. And it shows," said D'Amigo. "My ice time’s been increasing so I’m just going to keep playing the way I am. I’m getting more opportunities, especially on the penalty kill so keep getting chances like that and succeeding with them.”
MACWILLIAM ON HIS FIRST GAME
Andrew MacWilliam is slated to play his first NHL game tonight with the Leafs when they take on the Sabres. MacWilliam was recalled by the Leafs on an emergency basis on Wednesday morning. Here's what he had to say ahead of his first game...
On playing his first game tonight:
It's awesome, obviously what you've worked for your whole life is for this moment so I'm excited. It's great. I think my mom and dad are a little more excited than I am and it's great they get to reap the benefits of all the sacrifices they made.
On potentially heading out west with the Leafs on a trip that includes his hometown, Calgary:
It's funny, I kind of had that weekend circled off on my calendar so hopefully I can have a good game tonight and keep it going.
On his development within the system:
When Steve was down with us he was great with me and all the people that have helped out — Barb and everyone down with the Marlies — they've all helped me get to this point.
On a number of familiar faces on the Sabres from Marlies/Rochester battles:
Yeah and they've got Jerry D'Amigo as well, I was talking to him on the bench. It's that kind of year where people are getting an opportunity because of the way the standings are.
On getting his first game at 24:
The whole way through my career it has been a long process but we've taken our time and it's just the way it is. I played all four years of college and two years of junior so it's a little older to be playing my first game but I'm excited nonetheless.
On what he has improved:
I think it's a combination of a lot of little things. Foot speed is one of them, handles with the puck, those are things I needed to work on coming out of college. Like I was saying, with Barb and Steve and everyone down with the Marlies it has been great.
On chatting with Jerry D'Amigo:
We didn't talk too much about hockey, we were just kind of catching up, he's a good buddy. It was good to see him.
On playing junior with former Leafs prospect Joe Colborne:
We had a really good year my rookie year up in Canrose. Obviously we were pretty successful in that season with Big Joe there, he was a projected first rounder and went in the first round to Boston. If that (the Leafs discovering him during a scout visit for Colborne) was the case, I'm happy.
On instructions from the coaching staff:
Just stick to my game, they brought me here for a reason and I'm not going to change now. Just play a solid defensive zone, move the puck quickly and play physical.
On if he has any butterflies:
Maybe a little closer towards tonight. It's just a hockey game, you've played your whole life, I've been preparing for this for a while.
On if he's excited to play his first game on home ice:
Absolutely. I played a couple of games here in training camp and with the Marlies but it'll be great wearing the Leafs sweater.
The Leafs are coming off of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders on Monday night, which moves their record to 3-6-1 in their last 10.
Toronto is 18-14-1 at home this season.
The Sabres have lost four straight games coming into tonight's matchup and are 3-5-2 in their last 10.
Buffalo is 7-24-2 on the road this year.
The Sabres got the better of the Leafs in their last meeting, taking a 6-2 decision in Buffalo. The since-traded Drew Stafford scored the winner for the Sabres while Michal Neuvirth — who has also been traded — made 32 stops to earn the win. James Reimer took the loss in goal for the Leafs.
The season series is split 1-1 between the two.
ONE TO WATCH
Moulson sits second on the Sabres in scoring this year with nine goals and 30 points in 63 games. He is a decent bet to finish the year with strong offensive numbers as he has seen his shooting percentage dip to 7.4 per cent from his career average of 13.
In 22 career games, the Toronto native has had quite a bit of success against his former team, recording 14 goals and 20 points. Six of those 14 goals against the Leafs have come on the power play for Moulson. With the Leafs PK struggling of late, he will require extra attention. Despite in the midst of a tough offensive season, he still has a knack for sneaking into the low slot and other dangerous areas of the ice.
Here's how the Leafs and Sabres are expected to line up tonight...
Toronto Maple Leafs
19 Lupul - 42 Bozak - 81 Kessel
21 van Riemsdyk - 24 Holland - 18 Panik
47 Komarov - 23 Smith - 20 Booth
15 Lindstrom - 22 Sill - 67 Kozun
51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf
44 Rielly - 2 Brewer
33 Erixon - 57 MacWilliam
26 Moulson - 22 Larsson - 63 Ennis
82 Foligno - 84 Varone - 12 Gionta
44 Deslauriers - 59 Schaller - 19 Hodgson
49 D'Amigo - 37 Ellis - 20 Dalpe
61 Benoit - 47 Bogosian
6 Weber - 55 Ristolainen
41 Meszaros - 24 Strachan