TORONTO – The Buffalo Sabres have yet to win three games in a row this season, but they’ll have an opportunity to do so Saturday night in the second half of a home-and-home series against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
Buffalo took the first game Friday night at First Niagara Center by a 3-1 score in the first game behind the bench for interim head coach Ted Nolan. The Sabres improved to 10-1-2 (two ties) all-time in the home portion of their home-and-home series with the Maple Leafs and 2-9-1 in the road games. They previously defeated the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in the shootout at home Tuesday night.
If the Sabres emerge victorious on Saturday, it’ll be their first win in the road portion of a home-and-home series with Toronto since their 6-3 win on Oct. 31, 1998. Buffalo is 0-6-1 in the seven such games since then.
Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Only five Sabres took the ice for the optional morning skate. Johan Larsson, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov – scratches in the game on Friday – were out there with Mike Weber, who is on injured reserve, and goaltender Jhonas Enroth. Enroth left the ice much earlier than the skaters, who were put through a good workout by the assistant coaching staff.
Nolan said Friday morning that he does not expect Weber to be cleared to return from his thumb injury until this coming week. Therefore, it’s possible that he could return on Tuesday against St. Louis.
Zadorov is eligible to play in two more games this season before the Sabres are obligated to use up a year on his entry-level contract. He is eligible to return to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League this season as long as he does not play in 10 or more NHL games.
Nolan is expected to address the media later this afternoon.
UPDATE: WATCH TED NOLAN'S PREGAME INTERVIEW
The game on Saturday also wraps up Buffalo’s fifth of 13 sets of back-to-back games this season. This season, the Sabres are 2-3-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 1-3-0 in the second game.
Toronto will have at least one new face in the lineup. Saturday morning, the team acquired forwards Peter Holland and Brad Staubitz from the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Jesse Blacker, a conditional 2014 third-round pick and Anaheim’s 2014 seventh-round selection that was a part of their trade involving David Steckel in March.
Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said that Holland, a 22-year-old center who was selected 15th overall by Anaheim in 2009, may possibly play on one of their top two lines. James van Rimesdyk could slide over from center to the wing as a result. A roster move will have to occur in order to make room for Holland.
“When you do these things, obviously with the center ice position for us, an area which has been decimated with injuries and he’s a big young, skilled center iceman,” Carlyle said. “…He’s been able to provide offense at the junior level and the American Hockey League level and he’s going to get an opportunity to play with some of our better players.”