Maple Leafs-Sabres Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ normally strong power play was blanked despite numerous opportunities as their winning streak came to an end.
They should have an easier time capitalizing on chances against the Buffalo Sabres’ dreadful defense, however.
Toronto can claim its longest winning streak against Buffalo in nearly 43 years Saturday night.
The Maple Leafs (9-6-2) missed out on what would have been a season-high fourth straight win Friday, losing 2-1 at home to Pittsburgh. They failed to score five goals for the first time in four games and were shut out on six power plays.
Toronto had gone 3 for 4 with the man advantage in Wednesday’s 6-1 win over Boston. Its power-play unit entered Friday tied for the league’s fourth-best success rate at 24.1 percent.
"As a power-play unit we have to be better," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "That was an opportunity for us to shift the momentum in the game, and we weren’t able to capitalize at a key moment. That’s our responsibility."
Cody Franson scored Toronto’s lone goal to extend his career-best point streak to six games.
The Maple Leafs are looking to beat the Sabres for a fourth straight meeting for the first time since a five-game winning streak from Nov. 21, 1971-Feb. 19, 1972. They outshot Buffalo 37-10 in a 4-0 home victory on Oct. 28. The Sabres’ shot total was the league’s lowest in more than six years.
Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak each had a goal and an assist. Kessel has scored in four straight meetings and has 10 assists in his last 11 against Buffalo.
The host Sabres (3-13-2), who own the NHL’s fewest points and have scored the league’s fewest goals, have lost a season-worst six straight after Thursday’s 6-3 defeat at Minnesota. Jhonas Enroth surrendered four first-period goals and stopped only 33 of 38 shots as Buffalo allowed six goals for the third consecutive game and fourth time this season – matching its total from 2013-14.
Opponents are shooting 16.8 percent over the last three games after scoring on 8.4 percent of shots in the Sabres’ first 15 games. Enroth and Michal Neuvirth haven’t had much help in front of them with Buffalo giving up 39-plus shots in three of its last four.
The Sabres have conceded seven power-play goals on 17 chances over the last three games, including 2 in 4 penalty kills Thursday.
"It’s kind of sad to watch team after team after team go through us in the defensive zone like we don’t know what we’re doing," coach Ted Nolan said. "We have so many guys puck-staring, watching the puck and not being aware of what’s behind them."
Neuvirth, who gave up six goals on 29 shots in 6-1 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday, has dropped three of his last four starts versus Toronto while surrendering three-plus goals three times.
Drew Stafford leads Buffalo with 10 points but has only one in his last seven games against the Maple Leafs.
James Reimer is expected to start for Toronto after Jonathan Bernier stopped 38 shots in Friday’s loss. Reimer is 6-2-2 in 10 career starts versus Buffalo despite a 3.34 goals-against average.