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Michalek to make Maple Leafs debut against Sabres

Forward will appear in first game since nine-player trade

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com Correspondent

SABRES (26-31-9) at MAPLE LEAFS (21-33-10)

TV: 7:30 p.m.; BELL-TV, MSG-B, TSN4, NHL-TV

TORONTO -- Nearly one month after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators, forward Milan Michalek will make his debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs when they face the Buffalo Sabres at Air Canada Centre on Monday.

Michalek was part of the nine-player trade between the Maple Leafs and Senators that sent defenseman Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa on Feb. 9, but he has been sidelined with a broken finger from blocking a shot on Jan. 27.

"I feel great," Michalek said. "I am really excited, pumped up. Hopefully things will go well tonight."

The sixth pick by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft, Michalek has 206 goals and 438 points in 729 games with the Sharks and Senators. 

"I have not been able to show my teammates what I can do, but I have put lots of hard work in and hopefully it will pay off," Michalek said.

Michalek, 31, is the 39th player the Maple Leafs have used this season and the 23rd playing his first game for Toronto. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound left wing has another year remaining on his contract and is looking forward to being a leader on what is essentially a very young team.

"I feel great and I came here to help the young guys in the room," Michalek said. "Hopefully I can be a leader for them and help them to develop their game. I am really excited about our team. Our young players have so much skill and speed."

Toronto coach Mike Babcock said Michalek has worked very hard off the ice to prepare for his return and his first order of business is to get his own game in order.

"I need to put him in situations so he can be successful," Babcock said. "As a veteran player you don't help any kids until you get your own game going. We need him to help our kids and in order to do that we need to get him playing good. Once you get your game going you can help other people."

The Maple Leafs and Sabres are traditional rivals in a large part because of the close proximity of the cities. This season, though, they've played once on Nov. 21, when Buffalo won 2-1 in a shootout.

Sabres rookie center Jack Eichel is looking forward to facing the Maple Leafs three times in the next 12 games.

"It's going to be great," Eichel said. "That was an emotional game for us when we played early in the season. It was a big game and then you don't play them for basically three quarter of the season. We have a lot of games this month and three against our rivals."

With veteran center Ryan O'Reilly out with an injured foot, the Sabres have leaned on the Eichel, 19.

"I don't really want to think that I have changed my game, but I have taken on more responsibility," Eichel said. "I think one place is in the faceoff circle. Ryan took all our biggest faceoffs and he was great at it. I have had to step in and take some big draws for the team. He was a key component to our team, but it's the game of hockey and injuries are going to happen."

Here are the projected lineups:

SABRES

Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta

Daniel Catenacci - Cal O'Reilly - Zemgus Girgensons

Nicolas Deslauriers - David Legwand - Matt Moulson

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian

Carlo Colaiacovo - Mark Pysyk

Chad Johnson

Robin Lehner

Injured: Cody Franson (neck), Ryan O'Reilly (right foot), Tyler Ennis (concussion), Cody McCormick (blood clot)

Scratched: None

MAPLE LEAFS

Nikita Soshnikov - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Zach Hyman - William Nylander - Michael Grabner

Milan Michalek - Peter Holland - Brad Boyes

Colin Greening - Brooks Laich - Ben Smith

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner - Frank Corrado

Martin Marincin - Connor Carrick

Garret Sparks

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: None

Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Joffrey Lupul (middle body), James van Riemsdyk (foot fracture), Jared Cowen (hip tightness), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Byron Froese (broken hand), PA Parenteau (broken hand).

Status report: The Maple Leafs sent forwards Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen to Toronto of the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Eichel and Larsson each have goals in back-to-back games. … Ristolainen has a goal and two points in two games. … Soshnikov has two goals in three games.

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