TORONTO - Coming off a thrilling victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at home on Friday, the Buffalo Sabres are preparing for an emotional response when the two teams meet for a rematch tonight at Scotiabank Arena.
It will be the home debut for Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, who was undefeated in three games behind the Toronto bench prior to Buffalo's 6-4 win at KeyBank Center.
"I think, above all, it's going to be an angry Toronto team after losing last night and we're expecting their absolute A-game," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "We need to be strong defensively tonight to have a chance and we believe in that opportunity."
Video: PREGAME: Krueger
Carter Hutton will start in net for the Sabres, who will announce the rest of their lineup at game time. They dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen Friday, a look Krueger has utilized often of late as the team has navigated a stretch of five games and seven days.
"It gives you options to really mix different guys into the lineup," Krueger said. "You see the top-end guys don't get extra ice time out of it. It's more of a sharing of guys that sometimes don't get the minutes, and I think they're more into the game when they do that."
"For the D, when you're playing the pace that we are against the level of teams that we're playing at right now, they have more energy for their battles when you play with seven. It's also, again, difficult for the opposition to read or react to your lineup."
Krueger said he's been pleased with the way the Sabres have handled their busy schedule of late. They're 2-2-1 in their last five games and have led in each contest. Their win Friday propelled them into third place in the Atlantic Division with 28 points.
"We're not going to care about the standings at all until April 4," Krueger said. "It's something that we've spoken about from the start. We need to take care of developing a consistent game here. We're in a learning phase with the Buffalo Sabres and we want to stay competitive and stay in the race, but above all it's about our development right now, small picture and taking care of that.
"We love the last five games. They've been against very strong opponents. We've been in every game, we've made life difficult for other teams, and the results didn't go our way, but we feel there's a real interesting phase developing right now of consistency within the style of play. We've had the heaviest workload in the National Hockey League here of late and you still see the guys on topic and on page. We're expecting them to be able to do that again tonight."
Number to know: 6
Victor Olofsson extended his career-best point streak to six games with a goal on Friday, his 10th of the season. He has three goals in this last four games, all of which have come at even strength while skating on a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
"The power-play goals early, they came quite easily actually and then the challenge was to find the spaces," Krueger said. "He's just such a smart player, and what I like about Victor is no matter what we get the defensive consistency from him. His patience has allowed him to find those spaces and holes.
"It's an exciting thing to watch how that line in general has developed their 5-on-5 game, which was not that strong early in the season, but they're a threat against anybody. That's only going to continue to grow."
Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. with puck drop scheduled for 7. Be sure to stay tuned during the first and second intermissions for the premier of Beyond Blue and Gold: Ray vs. Domi. You won't want to miss it.