The Buffalo Sabres have been hit hard recently by injuries to key players. The Toronto Maple Leafs know that feeling all too well.
Buffalo looks to strengthen its grip on the league's best overall record while Toronto hopes to move up in the Eastern Conference standings when the teams meet Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.
Despite a lineup that featured five rookies - three with fewer than 10 games of NHL experience - the Sabres (43-16-5) defeated Montreal 8-5, and improved to 9-0-1 in their last 10 at home.
Michal Ryan scored his first two career goals and Thomas Vanek also scored twice for Buffalo, which moved one point ahead of Detroit and Nashville for the league's overall points lead.
"It's unbelievable," said Ryan, playing in his eighth NHL game. "I've never really been a part of anything like this."
Right wing Dainius Zubrus made his Sabres debut on a line with Ryan and Adam Mair. Zubrus, acquired from Washington on Tuesday before the trading deadline, did not record a point but was impressed with his teammates.
"I didn't realize how fast this game can be," Zubrus said. "I talked to the coach before and he said we play at a high pace. They jump and they go to score goals. I think now I'll know a little bit more what to expect."
Buffalo scored five goals or more for the fifth consecutive game despite missing injured forwards Chris Drury, Maxim Afinogenov, Ales Kotalik and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek.
Afinogenov and Drury are tied for third on the team with 57 points, Kotalik has 36 and Spacek 20.
Drury missed his third straight game with a concussion and will not play Saturday. He hopes to return Wednesday at home against Colorado.
Afinogenov hasn't played since Feb. 15 due to a broken left wrist. Kotalik is out at least two more weeks with a sprained knee and Spacek is sidelined with a broken hand.
Leading scorer Daniel Briere was held without a point Friday in his return to the lineup after missing one game with the flu. Briere has three goals and four assists in four games this season against Toronto.
Buffalo's Ryan Miller, who finished wirth 27 saves against the Canadiens, is 6-2-0 with a 2.72 goals-against average in eight career games against the Maple Leafs (31-25-9).
The Sabres aren't the only team dealing with injuries. Currently missing from Toronto's lineup are forwards Darcy Tucker, Michael Peca and Kyle Wellwood and defenseman Pavel Kubina.
All-Star defenseman Tomas Kaberle can be added to that list after he took a hard and arguably late hit from New Jersey's Cam Janssen in the second period Friday. Kaberle, second on the team with 49 points, was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a neck brace was applied.
A Maple Leafs official said Kaberle was alert in the locker room and will be held in an area hospital for observation.
"Absolutely no place for it in this game, and that's it," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said of the hit.
Angered by the hit, the Maple Leafs scored three goals in a 2:51 span of the third period, then got shootout goals from Yanic Perreault, Alex Steen and Jeff O'Neill in the 4-3 victory.
The win moved the Maple Leafs within two points of the final playoff spot in the East.
The Sabres have won both meetings in Toronto this season, and three of five overall against the Maple Leafs. Buffalo has earned at least one point in nine of its last 10 visits to Air Canada Centre, going 6-1-2 with one tie.