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Leafs, Sabres have battled injuries, inconsistency

by Dennis Ryan
TORONTO -- Tonight's Battle of the QEW features a pair of faltering squads hovering around the playoff bubble. Both the Sabres and the Maple Leafs sport 3-5-2 records in their last 10 games, and have nearly identical records on the season -- the Leafs are currently tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference with 36 points, one point up on the Sabres, who are tied for ninth. Ryan Miller and James Reimer will be between the pipes.

Injury problems have plagued both teams; Buffalo currently has seven players on IR, and forwards Tyler Ennis (ankle) and Jochen Hecht (lower body) are questionable for tonight. On the plus side, forward Patrick Kaleta is expected to return to action after missing a month with a groin injury.

With the Leafs placing forwards Colby Armstrong (concussion) and Philippe Dupuis (upper body) on IR Tuesday, highly-touted prospect Nazem Kadri was among the call-ups from the Toronto Marlies. The seventh pick in the 2009 draft has failed to make a strong impression with the Leafs, producing just 13 points in 33 career games (1 assist in three games this season), but his play in the minors this season has drawn raves. The AHL's player of the month for November will get a chance, starting tonight, to earn a permanent spot on the big club. Kadri will skate on a line with Tim Connolly and Clarke MacArthur.

Also of note for Toronto, rookie defenseman Jake Gardiner is expected to be scratched in favor of Keith Aulie. Gardiner has been impressive this season, but has struggled recently. In the last three games he has a minus-5 rating and has seen his ice-time steadily reduced, down to just 16:39 in Monday's loss to the Kings. 

Here are tonight's projected lineups.

Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Luke Adam - Paul Gaustad - Patrick Kaleta
Derek WhitmorePaul Szczechura - Drew Stafford
Cody McCormick - Matt Ellis - Zack Kassian

Robyn Regehr - Andrej Sekera
Christian Ehrhoff - Brayden McNabb 
Jordan Leopold - Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

Scratches: C Jochen Hecht, LW Tyler Ennis, D Marc-Andre Gragnani

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Nazem Kadri
Matt Frattin - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Darryl Boyce - David Steckel - Joey Crabb

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Keith Aulie - Luke Schenn
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson

James Reimer
Jonas Gustavsson

Scratches: D Jake Gardiner, RW Colton Orr, LW Jay Rosehill

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