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Sabres-Maple Leafs Preview

GAME: Buffalo Sabres (30-15-3) at Toronto Maple Leafs (24-21-3).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The Toronto Maple Leafs look to avoid tying their longest losing streak in nine years when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Toronto entered a stretch of back-to-back games at rival Ottawa on a four-game losing streak, and had the skid extended to six with a pair of defeats to the Senators. The Leafs lost 7-0 on Saturday and fell 4-3 on Monday.

Tie Domi, Kyle Wellwood and Nik Antropov scored Monday for Toronto, which is mired in its longest losing streak since dropping seven in a row from Jan. 3-20, 1997.

"It was a better effort (than Saturday) but we still didn't get the job done," Domi said.

Coach Pat Quinn, whose job security was the subject of speculation among the Toronto media over the weekend, agreed with Domi.

"We played a lot better and so that has to be looked at as an improvement, especially over Saturday night," he said. "We weren't that bad in the other games but it was not good enough to win, I guess. But the effort was better."

Toronto defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo sustained a concussion during the first period Monday and left the ice on a stretcher after his head struck the boards following a collision with Ottawa's Vaclav Varada.

Colaiacovo moved his legs as he was being attended to, and raised his right thumb to the crowd as he was taken off after having his head, neck and legs stabilized. The 22-year-old was able to return to Toronto with the team.

The Sabres avoided a third straight defeat with a 2-1 victory Tuesday over the New York Rangers, but lost center Tim Connolly in the process.

With less than a minute left in the second period, Connolly, who leads Buffalo with 29 assists, took a hard hit from New York's Darius Kasparaitis that injured his left knee and forced an early exit. He is expected to miss at least six weeks.

"I thought it was cheap, I thought he went low at the knees," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Wednesday. "It may not be the dirtiest hit ... but he didn't have to go low. He's known for that. He's a cheap shot artist."

On the same night Connolly left, Buffalo forward J.P. Dumont returned. Ahead of schedule, Dumont logged 8 minutes after missing 10 weeks following a sports hernia surgery.

The victory improved Buffalo to 2-2 on its six-game road trip.

"We needed this win tonight after losing the last two games in Calgary and Vancouver," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who stopped 23 shots. "It's getting to that time of the year, we've played 50 games and once we hit that Olympic break there won't be much time left before the playoffs."

STANDINGS: Sabres - 63 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Northeast Division. Maple Leafs - 51 points, 3rd place, 19 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 18 goals; Connolly, 29 assists; Connolly and Chris Drury, 38 points; Andrew Peters, 53 PIM. Maple Leafs - Darcy Tucker, 18 goals; Bryan McCabe, 34 assists and 49 points; Jason Allison, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sabres - Power play: 21.5 percent (62 for 288), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (220 for 257), 2nd. Maple Leafs - Power play: 19.9 percent (61 for 306), 6th. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent (247 for 305), 20th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Martin Biron (15-6-3, 2.98 GAA); Miller (13-7-0, 2.24). Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (18-17-2, 3.37); Mikael Tellqvist (6-4-1, 1 SO, 2.57).


LAST MEETING: Dec. 29; Maple Leafs 4-3, SO. At Toronto, Alexei Ponikarovsky had a goal in regulation and in the shootout as Toronto beat Buffalo for the third time in the last four meetings.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 15-8-1 on the road; Maple Leafs - 15-8-1 at home.

Associated Press
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