February 14, 2004
GAME: Buffalo Sabres (25-26-5-1) at Toronto Maple Leafs (31-14-9-3).
TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.
It might be time to start taking the Buffalo Sabres seriously.
Coming off their best offensive performance in three seasons, the surging Sabres will go for their seventh win in eight games when they take on the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
The Sabres appeared to be in big trouble on Friday against visiting Los Angeles as the Kings built a 3-1 lead in the second period. However, Henrik Tallinder scored the first of seven unanswered goals over the final 24 minutes as the Sabres went on to an impressive 8-3 win.
"After that goal we just kept on jumping, we kept on scoring," Tallinder said. "You could feel it just turning around."
Maxim Afinogenov scored twice, while Ales Kotalik and Daniel Briere had a goal an assist for Buffalo, which produced its best offensive showing since an 8-0 win over Atlanta on Nov. 8, 2001.
The Sabres, who improved to 9-2-2 in their last 13 home games, remained seven points by the New York Islanders in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Buffalo is 10-7-2 in 2004.
Toronto sit two points behind East-leading Philadelphia and two in front of second-place Boston in the Northeast Division.
The return of Ed Belfour can only help the Maple Leafs, who have won seven of their last 10 (7-2-1). The veteran goaltender was back in the lineup Thursday after missing three games with a back injury and made 18 saves as Toronto defeated Columbus 4-1 for its third straight win.
Belfour was rarely tested, but did stop Todd Marchant on a partial breakaway in the first period.
"They played the night before. Maybe being tired was the case today," Belfour said.
Columbus managed just four shots in the third.
Gary Roberts and Darcy Tucker scored power-play goals for the Maple Leafs.
-- Associated Press