Sabres-Maple Leafs Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs are searching for answers as to why they have been so bad at home.
Phil Kessel’s production certainly is at the top of the list.
Kessel and the Maple Leafs look to recover Tuesday night at home against the Buffalo Sabres in a matchup of Atlantic Division rivals struggling on the power play.
Toronto (3-4-1) fell 4-1 to Boston on Saturday in a listless effort that had fans chanting for the NBA’s Raptors in the third period. Richard Panik’s goal with 5:33 left only helped the Maple Leafs avoid a second shutout in three games as they fell to 1-4-0 at home.
”No explanation. I think we’re two different teams on the road and home for some reason,” center Nazem Kadri said.
One explanation is the production of Kessel, who has six points in three road games but only two at home. Kessel has been held pointless in all five losses for the Maple Leafs.
The star winger has four points in a three-game run versus Buffalo (2-7-0), with Toronto going 3-1-1 in the 2013-14 season series as the home team won each contest.
The Maple Leafs have conceded the first goal in all four home losses.
"I think the pressure of playing at home when things don’t go well, I think that’s the difference," coach Randy Carlyle said. "I think the first sign of adversity at home, it seems to multiply."
Carlyle kept the door to the dressing room closed longer than usual Saturday, and Toronto players didn’t want to discuss what was said.
"I’m not going to talk about what happened in the room," defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "I think it’s something that’s been around the league for a long time in every professional sport, what happens in here, stays in here and that’s the way it’s going to be in here."
Toronto is 0 for 19 on the power play over its last five games. Those woes pale in comparison to those for Buffalo, which is the only Eastern Conference team yet to score with the man advantage at 0 for 30.
The Sabres are averaging a league-worst 1.1 goals, though they come into this contest with some confidence.
Buffalo will cap a four-game trip after ending a four-game slide Saturday with a 2-1 win at San Jose that followed defeats by 4-1 at Anaheim and 2-0 to Los Angeles.
”The last three games in particular, our work ethic is improving,” coach Ted Nolan said. ”As a result our play is getting better. One thing we learned, hopefully, is if you work, good things happen. That’s the way we’re going to have to win this season.”
Toronto native Cody Hodgson finally scored his first goal of the season to break a scoreless tie against the Sharks. He was second on the team with 20 a season ago.
”I think I was forcing a bit too much earlier,” he said. ”I just made sure I was calm and took my time and it worked out.”
Buffalo’s lack of offense has not helped its defense, which is allowing opponents to shoot a league-high 36.7 shots per game.