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Maple Leafs-Sabres Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (30-28-6) at Buffalo Sabres (43-16-5).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Buffalo Sabres are on a season-best seven-game winning streak thanks to Daniel Briere.

The diminutive center will try to lead Buffalo to its longest winning run in nearly eight years as it meets the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Sabres last won eight straight from April 27-May 23, 1998.

Briere had two goals and two assists in the Sabres' 6-4 win Tuesday over Washington. He has five goals and 11 assists in eight games since returning after the Olympic break from a sports hernia injury that sidelined him for 24 games.

"When you take what was your best player out of the lineup for a long time, you start to wonder how it's going to work when he comes back," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "I think we've seen a good indication what it's done for our team, offensively ... He's small in stature, but big when it comes to the role he plays on the team."

Briere, listed at 5-foot-10, scored two goals in a 2:06 span to tie the score 3-3. He assisted on Ales Kotalik's tally with 1:43 to play to make it 5-4, and picked up the other assist on Maxim Afinogenov's empty-netter with one second left.

The Sabres have had to rally from two-goal first-period deficits in each of their last two games.

"It's not something we're looking forward to, to go down two goals," Briere said. "We did it in Boston and we did it a few days ago in Philly. It's pretty impressive."

The Sabres are averging 6.3 goals per game during the winning streak.

Buffalo, which has not made the postseason since losing in the conference semifinals in the 2000-01, trails divsion-rival Ottawa by two points. The Sabres also are three points in back of Eastern Conference-leader Carolina.

Toronto has reached 90 points each of the last six seasons en route to playoff appearances, but both of those streaks are in jeopardy. The Maple Leafs have only 66 points and are tied with the New York Islanders for 10th place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind eighth-place Montreal.

The Maple Leafs are coming off a 5-4 shootout win Tuesday over Boston. Mats Sundin had two goals and an assist and Darcy Tucker netted the only goal in the shootout.

"These extra points in the shootout are going to be very important down the stretch," Sundin said. "Who knows how close it's going to be."

Toronto is looking for its third straight win for the first time since a season-high six-game winning streak from Dec. 23-Jan. 2

STANDINGS: Maple Leafs - 66 points, 4th place, 27 PB, Northeast Division. Sabres - 91 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Tucker, 24 goals; Tomas Kaberle, 46 assists; Bryan McCabe, 59 points and 94 PIM. Sabres - Kotalik, 24 goals and 52 points; Teppo Numminen, 36 assists; Andrew Peters, 63 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.2 percent (82 for 406), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (322 for 400), 24th. Sabres - Power play: 21.6 percent (84 for 388), 2nd. Penalty killing: 85.7 percent (287 for 335), 3rd.

GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (22-22-4, 0 SO, 3.29 GAA); Mikael Tellqvist (8-6-2, 1, 2.94). Sabres - Ryan Miller (24-8-2, 0, 2.49); Martin Biron (18-6-3, 0, 2.87).

SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: March 3; Sabres, 6-2. At Buffalo, N.Y., Derek Roy's power-play goal with four seconds left completed his first career hat trick for the Sabres. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Alexander Steen scored for Toronto.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 10-16-4 on the road; Sabres - 22-8-3 at home.

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