MAPLE LEAFS (15-20-9) at SABRES (27-11-4)
Last 10 --
Toronto 3-5-2, Buffalo 7-1-2
Season series --
It's been four meetings and four Sabres victories. The Maple Leafs have earned two points by taking the Sabres to overtime twice.
Big story --
Buffalo is surging, with five straight wins, and could move to within a point of Eastern Conference-leading New Jersey with a victory and a loss by the Devils. The Sabres enter leading the Maple Leafs by 19 points in the Northeast Division.
Maple Leafs --
It's the third game in four nights for Toronto, which was routed by the Flyers 6-2 on Wednesday. Coach Ron Wilson doesn't want to hear about how fatigued his team is heading into tonight's game.
"I'm sure they'll say that, but it's no excuse," Wilson said. "We had a few guys who didn't compete at the level we need."
Wilson could give rookie goalie Jonas Gustavsson
his fourth straight start or turn to Vesa Toskala. Either way, he's not holding Gustavsson responsible for the six goals he allowed to the Flyers.
"There was nothing he could do on any of those goals," Wilson said. "He should sue for non-support (from his defenders)."
There's not much going against the Sabres right now. They've won five in row and have beaten the Leafs nine straight times. In their 5-3 win against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, they scored three goals in the first 1:48 and never looked back.
"It was nice to come out the way we did," rookie defenseman Tyler Myers
said. "Especially the way we started some games here in the past, we're starting to figure out we have to play a full 60 minutes if we want to win a hockey game."
Who's hot --
Toronto's Lee Stempniak has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games. … Buffalo's Tim Connolly
is in the midst of a seven-game point scoring streak. He has 5 goals and 6 assists over that span.
Injury report --
The Maple Leafs' laundry list of injuries include defenseman Jamie Heward (concussion), defenseman Mike Van Ryn (knee), center Mikhail Grabovski
(wrist),defenseman Carl Gunnarsson
(elbow), defenseman Mike Komisarek
(shoulder) and center Wayne Primeau (knee). … Sabres left wing Patrick Kaleta
(leg) is questionable for Friday's game.
Stat pack --
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
has posted a 2.90 goals-against average over his last six games after recording a 1.89 in his first 30 contests. ... Toskala has a 1.99 career GAA in Buffalo but was pulled from a 5-2 loss there Dec. 18 after allowing four goals on six shots in the second period. … The Maple Leafs have been outscored 35-15 while going 1-7-0 in their last eight on the road.
Puck drop --
Wilson decided to make his best player, Phil Kessel
, his scapegoat. He called him out in practice in front of reporters Thursday, pointing out he has just 1 goal in his last 10 games.
"I could single out a bunch of guys but he's our best player," Wilson said. "And a lot of times that needs to be the message."
Kessel has 14 goals this season, 2 less than team leader Niklas Hagman despite playing 11 fewer games due to injury.