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Leafs try to end victory drought in Buffalo

by John Kreiser /
MAPLE LEAFS (21-25-5) at SABRES (23-22-5)

TV -- CBC (HD); MSG-B (HD)

Last 10 -- Toronto 4-5-1; Buffalo 6-4-0

Season series -- The Northeast Division rivals are meeting for the third time this season, but the first time since Nov. 26, when the Sabres sent the Leafs home with a 3-1 loss -- their sixth in a row at HSBC Arena.

Big story -- The Leafs have come out of the All-Star break on a high note, beating Florida 4-3 in a shootout before blanking Carolina 3-0 on Thursday. This is their first road game since the break. Buffalo wasted a chance to make up some ground in the playoff race by blowing a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Friday in the Sabres' first game back. They are still 11th with 51 points, six behind eighth-place Atlanta and just four more than 12th-place Toronto,

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs -- Have the Leafs found their goalie of the future? Rookie James Reimer made 27 saves in the win against Carolina and is making the case for more playing time. He's already caused the Leafs to send Jonas Gustavsson to the AHL Toronto Marlies and figures to share time with Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"I have no hesitation to play him or (J.S. Giguere)," coach Ron Wilson said. "I think it's horses for courses right now."

Reimer, who will get the start in Buffalo, is 5-3-0 with a 1.96 goals-against and a .940 save percentage.

"Obviously I'm aware of the situation," Reimer said. "My job security up here, there isn't much of that. But as soon as I let those thoughts creep into my mind, I'm going to get nervous out there and it's going to get to me."

Sabres -- After a 10-day layoff, the Sabres got the jump on the Penguins, scoring twice in the first 7:03. But they generated little offense after that, and Pittsburgh scored three times in a 3:14 span to miss a chance to gain ground.

"I don't think it was panic, I just think we didn't play our best," defenseman Andrej Sekera said.

Buffalo is still 9-4-1 in its last 14 games, and had four games in hand on the eighth-place Thrashers.

Who's hot -- Toronto's Kris Versteeg has goals in back-to-back games. … Buffalo center Paul Gaustad has 2 goals in his last three games.

Injury report -- Toronto center John Mitchell (knee) is ready to return. Colton Orr is on IR with a head injury, and center Darryl Boyce isn't expected to play after leaving Thursday's game with a facial injury. … Buffalo is still without Patrick Kaleta (broken left hand). Center Derek Roy (leg surgery) is out for the season.

Stat pack -- Buffalo has outscored Toronto 24-10 in its six-game winning streak at home. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller has won 11 of his last 12 against the Leafs while posting a 1.49 goals-against average.

Puck drop -- Toronto center Tim Brent, a career minor-leaguer before earning a spot with the parent club this season, was the talk of the town after a penalty-killing shift for the ages on Thursday in which he blocked three shots and dove to clear a puck -- all in a 30-second span -- earning a standing ovation from the Air Canada Centre crowd.

Brent said it was the kind of reception possible only in Toronto.

"There's hockey fans and there's Toronto Maple Leafs fans," Brent told the Leafs' website. "I know people say this all the time, but the fans here are students of the game. Believe me, in other places the fans don't react that way."

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