Maple Leafs-Sabres Preview
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (8-6-2) at Buffalo Sabres (7-8-0).
TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.
The Buffalo Sabres look to end a four-game losing streak when they play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs at HSBC Arena.
The Sabres, who have lost six of their last seven overall, also will try to stop a four-game home skid.
Buffalo has struggled without injured rookie goaltender Ryan Miller, who broke his thumb in practice Saturday. The Sabres have given up 23 goals in four games with Martin Biron, who has a 4.67 goals-against average in that span, and Mika Noronen, who gave up four goals in 33 minutes of a 10-4 defeat to Ottawa the same day Miller broke his thumb.
The Sabres put a season-high 44 shots on goal Wednesday against the Carolina Hurricanes but lost 5-3 despite allowing just 22 shots to the Hurricanes.
"It's really frustrating," said Sabres rookie Thomas Vanek. "We got a lot of shots, but we have to buckle down and work harder to get the rebounds."
The good news is the highly touted Vanek, the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, scored his first two NHL goals against Carolina. He also picked up his 10th assist, and among rookies, only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby has more (14).
The Maple Leafs have been defying a statistical norm this season. Despite a losing road record, they have outscored opponents away from home. Additionally, they have been outscored at home despite a 6-3-1 record at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto rallied for a 6-4 home win Tuesday over Washington. The Maple Leafs tallied four third-period goals to win after falling behind 2-0 in the first period.
"We worked a lot harder tonight," Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "We were pretty unlucky to be down 2-0 after one. We stuck to the program, and it worked out."
Toronto has scored 15 goals in its last three games, led by the trio of McCabe, Jeff O'Neill and captain Mats Sundin. McCabe, the NHL's top-scoring defenseman with 20 points, has two goals and three assists in those games. O'Neill has four goals and three assists while Sundin, who missed 12 games with a fractured orbital bone, has two goals and four assists in three games since his return.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 10): Maple Leafs - 18 points, 4th place, 8 PB, Northeast Division. Sabres - 14 points, 5th place, 12 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - O'Neill and Eric Lindros, 8 goals; McCabe, 15 assists and 20 points; Jason Allison and Wade Belak, 33 PIM. Sabres - Daniel Briere, 10 goals and 16 points; Vanek, 10 assists; Jochen Hecht, 14 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 10): Maple Leafs - Power play: 23.6 percent (26 for 110), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (84 for 102), 13th. Sabres - Power play: 21.4 percent (21 for 98), 4th. Penalty killing: 80.0 percent (56 for 70), 23rd (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (7-4-2, 0 SO, 3.54 GAA); Mikael Tellqvist (1-2-0, 0, 3.36). Sabres - Biron (1-3-0, 0, 4.51); Noronen (0-1-0, 0, 7.27).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 3-1-1-1.
LAST MEETING: April 2, 2004; Maple Leafs, 2-0. At Buffalo, N.Y., Chad Kilger snapped a scoreless tie 5:46 into the third period, and Ed Befour stopped 17 shots for his first of back-to-back shutouts to close out the 2003-04 season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 2-3-1 on the road; Sabres - 4-4-0 at home.