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Sabres try to deny Leafs first three-game win streak

by Eric Goodman /
SABRES (14-7-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (6-11-7)

Last 10 -- Buffalo 5-4-1; Toronto 4-4-2

Season series --
This is the second of six regular-season meetings between the Northeast Division rivals. Buffalo took the first contest at HSBC Arena, 3-2 in overtime back on Oct. 30. Tim Connolly tallied two goals for the Sabres, including the game-winning power-play goal in the extra period.

Big story --
The Sabres have not lost at Air Canada Centre since Mar. 24, 2007 and have also defeated the Maple Leafs six straight games overall dating back to the 2008-09 season. Both Buffalo and Toronto have currently won two in a row which, for the Leafs, has only been accomplished one other time this season.

Team Scope:

Sabres -- Buffalo snapped out of a four-game losing streak this weekend with a 4-2 road victory over Philadelphia on Friday and a convincing 5-1 win at home against Carolina on Saturday. Facing Toronto has proved fruitful for Buffalo recently as the Sabres are 11-4-0 in their last 15 games against the Leafs.

Their success this season owes a lot to the stellar play of All-Star goalie Ryan Miller, who leads the NHL with a .933 save percentage and 1.93 goals against average. Miller proved his worth with an amazing diving glove save on the Hurricanes' Rod Brind'Amour on Saturday that had head coach Lindy Ruff singing his goalie’s praises.
"Even most guys on the bench got up and couldn't believe it," Ruff said of the highlight- reel save. "I didn't believe it until I saw him throw it out. That picks a team up, and it's one of those real special saves."

Maple Leafs --
Toronto will aim for its first three-game winning streak of the season after sweeping road games in Florida last week against the Lightning and Panthers. While the Leafs have found a consistent scoring touch difficult to obtain for most of this season, they have recently improved their offensive output by averaging four goals a game over their last five contests.

The 6-4 win over the Panthers had head coach Ron Wilson thinking positive about his squad.

"Maybe the worm is finally turning for us,'' Wilson said. "We've been out-shooting everybody and we've got a couple of really confident guys in (Phil Kessel) and Niklas Hagman, who have just found a way to get in the net.''

Who's hot --
Connolly has totaled five points (2 goals, 3 assists) over his last four games for Buffalo. Hagman has six goals over his last four games for Toronto.

Injury report --
For the Sabres, captain Craig Rivet (lower body) and center Paul Gaustad (undisclosed) went down in Friday's game against Philadelphia and both were out for Saturday's game against the Hurricanes. Toronto will be without goalie Vesa Toskala (groin), forward John Mitchell (knee) and defenseman Mike Komisarek (quad).

Stat pack -- Buffalo currently ranks fourth amongst all NHL teams with a 2.39 goals-against average while Toronto is tied with Carolina for last in that category at 3.62.

Puck drop -- If raw statistics and recent box scores were all that were used to determine the outcome of a game, then the Sabres would be the clear-cut winner. However, the Maple Leafs picked up the pace over the past week and can perhaps use that offensive momentum to conquer the League's best goalie. Toronto certainly needs to win this game much more than Buffalo does, so Ruff and his Sabres squad must continue playing their disciplined brand of hockey to avoid getting surprised by a decidedly upstart Leafs team.

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