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Sabres aim to end skid against Maple Leafs

by John Kreiser

MAPLE LEAFS (14-9-2) at SABRES (5-20-1)


Last 10: Toronto 4-4-2; Buffalo 3-7-0

Season series: The Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres split a home-and-home series two weekends ago, with each team winning in its own building. They meet twice more this season; both games are at Air Canada Centre.

Big story: The Maple Leafs come to Buffalo after seeing a 4-1 lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins turn into a 6-5 shootout loss Wednesday night. The Sabres have dropped five in a row after beating Toronto in their first game under interim coach Ted Nolan.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Toronto took a seemingly secure 5-3 lead into the dressing room after two periods against Pittsburgh despite having been outshot 29-24. But everything fell apart after that.

Pittsburgh outshot the Maple Leafs 17-0 in the third period and got goals by James Neal and Evgeni Malkin to force overtime, took the only two shots in a scoreless overtime, then got goals by Sidney Crosby and Malkin in the shootout to take home the extra point.

"We stopped skating. We stopped forechecking. We stopped playing," said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, whose team is being outshot by an average of 10 per game (36.1-26.1). "There's no explanation for us not getting any shots in the third period.

"We've got an old enough group and a veteran core that should be able to grab a hold of it."

Sabres: A 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday left Buffalo with two victories in 14 home games. Despite a 1-5-0 record and the continuing struggles at First Niagara Center, Nolan said he's seeing progress from a team whose 11 points are last in the overall standings.

"The one thing we asked our team to do is compete, and we competed," Nolan said. "When things are difficult, it's easy to point fingers, but this group is really starting to pay attention. We're making strides in the right direction."

Matt Moulson ended an 11-game drought by scoring the Sabres' lone goal.

Who's hot: James van Riemsdyk had two goals and an assist against the Penguins. … Ryan Miller's goaltending continues to give the Sabres a chance to win. Despite a 4-15-0 record, he has a save percentage of .918.

Injury report: Toronto is without forward Joffrey Lupul (groin) and center Dave Bolland (ankle). … Buffalo has been missing forward Cody McCormick (undisclosed) for a week, but Nolan said he could return either against Toronto or Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.

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