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Preview: Maple Leafs at Sabres

Toronto continues playoff push; forward Kyle Okposo returns for Buffalo

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

MAPLE LEAFS (35-23-15) at SABRES (30-32-12)

7 p.m. ET; CBC, MSG-B, NHL.TV

 

Maple Leafs team scope

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won three straight games and four of their past five. They are in third place in the Atlantic Division, trail the second-place Ottawa Senators by five points and the first-place Montreal Canadiens by six points. Toronto has been led by rookie forward William Nylander, who has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in a 10-game point streak. Nylander has teamed with rookie center Auston Matthews, who has a four-game point streak (two goals, three assists) to give the offense a boost. "[Nylander]'s played well," coach Mike Babcock said. "He's more competitive each and every day, which I think is important. He's better without the puck and so he has the puck more and he's getting to the harder areas and you see that on the scoresheet. When you get to the hard areas, you get more points. When you don't, you just don't get them." Forward Ben Smith will replace Josh Leivo, out with an undisclosed injury. Smith hasn't played since Feb. 25 and has played in one of Toronto's past 15 games.

 
Sabres team scope

The Buffalo Sabres are 10 points behind the New York Islanders for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and will have right wing Kyle Okposo back in the lineup. Okposo missed the past 10 games with a rib injury. "Just trying to keep it simple early, get my legs underneath me," Okposo said. "Just work as hard as I can. I might be fighting the puck a little bit, but hopefully as the game progresses and [I] just keep working, everything becomes easier and a little bit slower." The Sabres will also get defensemen Dmitry Kulikov (upper body) and Justin Falk (calf) and forward William Carrier (knee) back. Carrier missed the past 24 games and Kulikov missed the past nine. "It's been a while for Will and Kyle and Dmitry to be out of the lineup, so it's good getting them back, and Justin had bumps and bruises, out for a couple games," coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's kind of a different flavor putting your [defense] pairings together and your lines together with an influx of four guys." The Sabres recalled defenseman Brady Austin from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Saturday. He will play in place of Rasmus Ristolainen, who is serving the first of a three-game suspension for a hit against Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel on Tuesday.

 

Maple Leafs projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner

Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- Connor Brown

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Matt Martin -- Brian Boyle -- Ben Smith

Morgan Rielly -- Connor Carrick

Jake Gardiner -- Nikita Zaitsev

Matt Hunwick -- Alexey Marchenko

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Martin Marincin

Injured: Eric Fehr (hand/arm), Nikita Soshnikov (undisclosed), Josh Leivo (undisclosed)

Suspended: Roman Polak

 

Sabres projected lineup

Tyler Ennis -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Kyle Okposo

Marcus Foligno -- Jack Eichel -- Sam Reinhart

Evander Kane -- Evan Rodrigues -- Brian Gionta

William Carrier -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Matt Moulson

Jake McCabe -- Dmitry Kulikov

Brady Austin -- Zach Bogosian

Josh Gorges -- Justin Falk

Robin Lehner

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Hudson Fasching, Nicolas Deslauriers

Injured: Cody Franson (undisclosed), Johan Larsson (wrist)

Suspended: Rasmus Ristolainen

 

Status report

Andersen will start after McElhinney played Thursday in a 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils. … Lehner will make his third straight start.

 
Who's hot

Bozak has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in his past 11 games. ... Kadri has five points (two goals, three assists) in his past five games… Eichel has 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in his past 13 games.

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