They say familiarity breeds contempt. That’ll be put to the test Friday night when the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs face each other for the third time in two weeks.
Matt D’Agostini will make his debut with the Buffalo Sabres on Friday when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center. He was claimed off waivers on Tuesday and will skate on the team’s second line with center Ville Leino and captain Steve Ott. He knows all about rivalries with the Maple Leafs having started his career the Montreal Canadiens.
“Being an Ontario boy, it’s always nice to play and beat the Leafs,” D’Agostini said after the morning skate at First Niagara Center.
Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The Sabres have had problems scoring goals this season and have just one goal in each of their past four games.
“There are guys who can score, but nobody’s scoring right now and it’s going to have to start sooner or later,” Leino said. “But we’re playing better, we’re getting more chances so hopefully we’ll get a couple good wins, a couple good goals and there’s no better place than starting tonight.”
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Buffalo hopes that the addition of D’Agostini will help ease those scoring woes. He scored 21 goals in 2010-11 with St. Louis and his new linemates will look to utilize his shot.
“He’s a big time shooter. He’s scored over 20 in this league already, so getting him the puck’s going to be key,” Ott said. “I’m sure he’s going to want to prove a lot of his game, obviously, getting picked up and getting a fresh chance on a new team. He wants to bring it.”
D’Agostini knows Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan as both are from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and he’s gotten acquainted with his teammates fairly quickly as well.
“Teddy’s a great guy, really easy to talk to,” he said. “Just from getting the vibe from around the room here, a lot of the boys really appreciate what he’s brought to the team.”
Buffalo is also looking to improve their penalty kill. They’ve allowed at least one goal while shorthanded in each of their past five games. They gave up two power-play goals against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
“We had a long meeting about that today. Special teams win and lose you games now, especially the last few years in this league and that’s what’s happening again,” Ott said. “Our P.K. has been dismal in the last little while, two against last game. We have to shore up a lot of things, clears are very important. A lot of them, if you don’t clear that puck the first or second time, it’s coming back in your net and that’s kind of what’s happened in the last little while.”
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Nolan said that when it comes to killing penalties, the easiest thing to do is committing to staying out of the box.
“Don’t take bad penalties. We have a lot of work to do in that area,” he said. “You don’t mind killing off the real good penalties. Once in awhile, the ones we have been taking are not very good. We just have to get better in the shot lanes.”
Mikhail Grigorenko, Jamie McBain and Brayden McNabb will be healthy scratches for Buffalo. Nolan said that Grigorenko and McNabb will likely be back in the lineup Saturday night in New Jersey.
Tyler Ennis will move to center, taking Grigorenko’s place between Luke Adam and Zemgus Girgensons on the third line.
“I think he’s a gifted little guy that needs to have some room to skate with the puck and do some things with it,” Nolan said. “We don’t need him battling along the boards so we’ll put him in the middle.”
Center Cody McCormick, who is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, won't be ready to play Toronto, but may be available against the Devils on Saturday, according to Nolan.
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice at practice and is expected to start in goal. Nolan said Jhonas Enroth would play this weekend as well, so he’ll likely start against New Jersey.
26 Matt Moulson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott – 23 Ville Leino – 27 Matt D’Agostini
72 Luke Adam – 63 Tyler Ennis – 28 Zemgus Girgensons
32 John Scott – 65 Brian Flynn – 82 Marcus Foligno
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 52 Alexander Sulzer
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 3 Mark Pysyk
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth
Scratched: 4 Jamie McBain, 25 Mikhail Grigorenko, 44 Brayden McNabb
Injured Reserve: 8 Cody McCormick