Sabres-Maple Leafs Preview

The Toronto Maple Leafs will probably be in a desperate mode

Saturday night at home.

The Maple Leafs are mired in a three-game skid that has stalled

their playoff push and will face one of the teams they are chasing,

the Buffalo Sabres.

Toronto (29-29-10) revived hopes of its first postseason berth

since 2004 by going 6-0-3 from Feb. 15-March 3. But the Maple Leafs

are 0-2-1 in their last three and six points out of a spot after

Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Philadelphia.

“I guess this just makes Saturday’s game all the more

important,” forward Joffrey Lupul said. “There’s a lot of games

left but this is basically as close to a must-win as you can


Winning on Saturday probably won’t be easy. Buffalo (33-26-8)

has won 13 of its last 15 against Toronto, and nine of its last 10

in the series on the road.

The Maple Leafs are 0 for 39 on the power play in their last 11

games against the Sabres and 1 for 27 in their last six games


Ryan Miller is 12-2-0 with a 1.57 goals-against average in his

last 14 starts against the Leafs and 8-1-0 in his last nine at the

Air Canada Centre, although he lost the last meeting Feb. 16 at

home and his last start in Toronto on April 1.

The Sabres are finishing up a seven-game trip after going 4-1-1

in the first six. Brad Boyes scored in overtime in Thursday’s 4-3

win over Boston.

“When you score in overtime this time of year it’s exciting,”

Boyes said. “It’s about getting points now. It doesn’t matter who

we play.”

Thomas Vanek has five points in his last three games. He and Tim

Connolly had power-play goals Thursday as Buffalo went 2 for 7

after going 0 for 14 in its previous four games.

The Sabres are in a tight race with the Rangers and Carolina for

the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, and would no

doubt love to hamper Toronto’s pursuit. Vanek and Drew Stafford

each have four points to help Buffalo win three of four in the

season series.

The Maple Leafs were hurt Thursday when defenseman Mike

Komisarek was ejected early in the game for shoving Philadelphia’s

Daniel Carcillo. The game misconduct led to the Flyers scoring a

power-play goal for a 1-0 lead.

“It’s not good when you lose a D-man that early but I thought we

adapted OK,” defenseman Dion Phaneuf said.

Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski scored for Toronto, which has not

lost four straight since Nov. 26-Dec. 2.

“We played hard, but we didn’t play hard enough,” Phaneuf said.

“It’s a disappointing loss, that’s for sure.”

The Maple Leafs may need Phil Kessel to get untracked again.

Kessel had amassed 10 points in five games before managing one over

the last four.

Rookie James Reimer is mired in his longest winless streak,

posting a 4.42 GAA over the last three games. Reimer was pulled

after allowing five goals against the Sabres in a 6-2 loss Feb. 5,

but he beat Buffalo after playing 40 minutes in relief of the

injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere in a 2-1 victory Feb. 16.

“We’ve got 14 games left and there’s a lot of points we can

get,” Reimer said. “So things are still looking good.”