Sabres-Maple Leafs Preview
The Buffalo Sabres are undefeated. Under interim coach Ted Nolan, that is.
The Sabres will try to continue a fresh start on a thus-far disappointing season Saturday night in Toronto as they go for a home-and-home sweep against the Maple Leafs.
After Friday's 3-1 home win over the Leafs, Buffalo (5-15-1) has won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
"It was one of those games where you didn't ever know that this type of day would ever happen again," said Nolan, who coached in Buffalo from 1995-97. "It was very emotional, so I'll have a good cry after everybody leaves."
Friday call-up Trevor Smith gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 second-period lead, but Steve Ott and Marcus Foligno scored to pull the Sabres ahead entering the third.
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller turned aside 13 shots in the final period, while defenseman Christian Ehrhoff added an empty-netter to seal the win under the newly- appointed regime of Nolan and president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine.
"It's a new start," Ehrhoff said. "A lot of guys have been down, and confidence hasn't been high. When there's a big change like that, it's a fresh start for everybody."
New beginnings aside, they're still last in the league with a 1.71 scoring average and are one of seven teams allowing over 3.00 goals per game (3.05).
Toronto has been the team with a list of more recent struggles. The Maple Leafs (11-7-1) are 10-0-0 when they score at least three goals and 1-7-1 when they don't.
With four regulation goals in their last five games, what they need to improve on is quite obvious if they want to salvage a split in the home-and home.
"We're just not getting the results," coach Randy Carlyle told the team's official website. "We've had chances, we had glorious opportunities. It's just that right now we're squeezing the sticks or we're getting hit in the shaft or players making a big stop."
Toronto has gone winless in three straight for the first time this season. The Leafs are 1-3-1 in their last five and haven't won in regulation since Oct. 30. That 4-2 win at Calgary was the last time they scored more than a goal.
"It's a long season, there's ebbs and flows a bit," forward James van Riemsdyk said. "We're going to keep with the same approach: just getting a lot of pucks to the net. We're getting some good chances, we've just got to start burying them."
Prior to their 33-27 shots-on-goal advantage against Buffalo, they hadn't outshot an opponent since their third game of the season.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 24 of 26 shots as Toronto continues to rely on goaltending. He fell to 0-3-0 in his career against the Sabres.
In need of offense, the Maple Leafs will again be without forward Nazem Kadri, who was suspended for three games Thursday for a hit to Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom's head in Wednesday's 2-1 shootout loss. Kadri is second on team with 14 points.
The Sabres have won two straight against the Maple Leafs.