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Sharpen Up: March 5, 2018

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

It's a game night in Buffalo as the Sabres and Maple Leafs renew their rivalry. While it won't feature a Jack Eichel vs. Auston Matthews matchup because both players are out with injuries, there is some good news on the Eichel front: He started skating on his own on Saturday, but there is still no timetable for his return. 

Tonight's game can be seen on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. You can hear Dan and Rayzor call the action on WGR 550. Chad Johnson will start in net for Buffalo. 

Here's what you need to know. 


Sunday's practice

Buffalo was back at it following their two-game road trip through the Sunshine State. They defeated Tampa on Wednesday and fell to Florida on Friday. 

Marco Scandella played only one period on Friday, leaving the game with a lower-body injury, but he was a full participant in yesterday's practice. Evan Rodrigues, who missed Friday's game with a rib injury, was held out. Rodrigues is considered day-to-day.

From the Ice Level Practice Report… 

Whether or not Scandella will be ready to return to the lineup when the Buffalo Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday depends on how he reacts to practice. Hearing him talk about the matchup, however, it's safe to say his preference is to play. 

"I've been waiting all year for this game," Scandella said. "I know that there's a huge rivalry with the Leafs and we haven't played them all year. I've been on the team for how many games now, 65 games? And we haven't played them yet. So, I've been itching for this one."

The Sabres recalled defenseman Brendan Guhle and center Kyle Criscuolo after practice

Criscuolo joins the Sabres for his second career recall after appearing in eight games with the team earlier this season. He currently leads all Rochester skaters with 15 goals and is tied for second on the team with 34 points, including 10 points (3+7) in his last 10 games.

Also making his second recall of the season is Guhle, who recorded his first NHL point with an assist during a two-game stint with Buffalo in January. In his first full professional season, the Edmonton, Alberta native has 24 points (8+16) in 47 games with the Amerks.

Buffalo's second-round pick (51st overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, Guhle now has 30 points (10+20) in 59 career AHL games and one assist in five NHL contests.

Eichel skates

More from the Practice Report:

Eichel has taken a step forward in his recovery from a high-ankle sprain. Eichel began skating on Saturday, according to Sabres coach Phil Housley, and is moving forward with the goal of returning to the lineup before the end of the season. 

Eichel leads the Sabres with 53 points despite missing the last 10 games with the injury. 

"That's the goal, but we never know how these things react," Housley said. "We don't want to put any timeline on it. It's good to see him skating. I think that's a step in the right direction. Obviously, he wants to play some games before the end of the year."


On the rivalry

Jason Pominville last experienced the rivalry on March 21, 2013, a 5-4 shootout win for Buffalo at KeyBank Center. He's intrigued to see how it's held up five years later.

"It's weird the way the schedule is built," Pominville said. "In the past it feels like we have always played them late a little bit, but to have not played them at this point home or away is definitely different and something we're not used to.

"For me, it's been a while, so I'm interested to see if it's still the same way where their fans manage to get tickets in here and be pretty loud. It should be a pretty good atmosphere."

Pominville has faced off with the Maple Leafs 50 times as a member of the Sabres, totaling 48 points (18+30) in those matchups.

Tonight's matchup

From the Game Notes… 

  • This is the first of four meetings between the Sabres and Maple Leafs this season.
  • Last meeting: Toronto defeated Buffalo 4-2 in Buffalo on April 3, 2017
  • Next meeting: Thursday, March 15 in Buffalo
  • The Sabres are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games vs. the Maple Leafs; 8-2-0 at home.


  • The home team has won 24 of the last 30 games between the Sabres and the Maple Leafs.
  • The Sabres are 18-3-1 in their last 22 home games against the Maple Leafs.
  • Each team won on the road in the series last season, marking the first time the Sabres and Maple Leafs won in each other's arenas in the same season since 2012-13.
  • The Maple Leafs haven't won consecutive games in Buffalo since March 21 and Dec. 12, 2008, but would do so with a win tonight.



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