It was only two nights ago that Kyle Criscuolo and Brendan Guhle last found themselves engulfed in a rivalry with an opponent from Toronto. They helped the Rochester Americans to a 4-1 win over the Toronto Marlies, their rival in the North Division and a potential opponent in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Criscuolo and Guhle were recalled the next day, only to be thrust into the NHL's version of that rivalry. Both players will enter the lineup for the Buffalo Sabres when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.
"We beat the Marlies the last two games," Guhle said. "Hopefully we do the same tonight and beat the Leafs."
Video: Preview: TOR at BUF (3/5/18)
Guhle impressed during a two-game stint in Buffalo in January, so much so that coach Phil Housley hoped for him to remain with the team. He was reassigned to Rochester to play during Buffalo's bye week but sustained a lower-body injury that had him sidelined for nearly three weeks.
"He played terrific last time he was up here," Housley said. "We wanted to bring him up again, but he got hurt, set him back. But recently he's played some terrific hockey. So, I think it's opportunity for him to get back where he was, providing some good speed and joining the rush offensively."
Guhle has recorded 24 points (8+16) in 47 games with the Amerks this season. He spent much of that time playing alongside Casey Nelson, who he'll be paired with on Monday. Both players said they expect the chemistry to translate.
"We both move our feet quite a bit up and down the ice," Nelson said. "Defensively, we're aware and defensively sound. I just think we can move the puck out of the zone as quick as we can, get it in our forwards' hands and hopefully join the rush here and there. Otherwise, hopefully just shut down lines."
Criscuolo was held scoreless in eight games with Buffalo earlier in the season but leads Rochester with 15 goals. He's tied for second on the team with 34 points, including 10 (3+7) in his last 10 games. He fills a need at center with Evan Rodrigues out for the second-straight game due to an upper-body injury.
Criscuolo will begin the game on a line centering Benoit Pouliot and Nicholas Baptiste. Seth Griffith is expected to be a healthy scratch at forward.
"I continue to work on faceoffs and I think I bring my speed to be there every night," Criscuolo said. "I think they want me to skate and be reliable in the D-zone and take faceoffs and hopefully chip in offensively."
The Sabres will turn to Chad Johnson in net on the heels of a 21-save performance in their win in Tampa last Wednesday. Johnson is 4-1-0 in his last six appearances with a .939 save percentage.
The Maple Leafs are winless in their last three games and playing without their second-leading scorer in Auston Matthews, out with a shoulder injury. This will be the first meeting between the Sabres and Maple Leafs, with three more to follow over the next month.
Even without Matthews, the Maple Leafs boast a talented young lineup led by Mitch Marner and William Nylander, who rank first and third on the team with 53 and 49 points, respectively. Housley compared them to another Atlantic Division opponent that the Sabres have fared well against as of late.
Video: HOUSLEY: Pregame Interview
"I think Toronto is similar to Tampa because they're very dangerous off the rush and they like to stretch the ice and try to get behind your D," he said. "Any possession changes in our offensive zone, they're taking off. We're going to have to be well aware of that. Our checking detail is going to have to be very good."
The game will be televised nationally on NBCSN, or you can find radio coverage on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 23 Sam Reinhart
17 Jordan Nolan - 10 Jacob Josefson - 21 Kyle Okposo
20 Scott Wilson - 22 Johan Larsson - 29 Jason Pominville
67 Benoit Pouliot - 51 Kyle Criscuolo - 13 Nicholas Baptiste
6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
45 Brendan Guhle - 8 Casey Nelson
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 93 Victor Antipin
31 Chad Johnson
40 Robin Lehner