Maple Leafs look to remain perfect vs. Sabres (Feb 11, 2017)
TORONTO -- The Buffalo Sabres have not figured out how to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
They are 0-2-0 against the Maple Leafs and have three more games against their Atlantic Division rivals, starting Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs are third in the Atlantic Division, seven points ahead of the seventh-place Sabres.
"Any divisional game right now is huge for us," Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly said. "They're four-point swings and this Toronto team, the last few games, I think, have been disappointing against them. We can be a lot better against them and they're right above us. They're a team we can catch if we chip away and get back in this."
"That's where you make the playoffs is right there, pretty much," Sabres right winger Kyle Okposo said.
"They say it's a four-pointer," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said after practice on Friday. "I have been in the league a long time, (points) only go up two at a time. I know that. We just keep trying to get our two each night."
The Maple Leafs (25-17-11) defeated the Sabres (22-22- 10) by a 2-1 score at Buffalo on Nov. 3 and 4-3 on Jan. 17 in Toronto.
After Saturday, the two remaining games between the teams, March 25 and April 3, are at Buffalo.
The Sabres lost 5-2 to the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night after a 5-4 comeback win in overtime Tuesday over the San Jose Sharks, a game in which Buffalo trailed 4-1 in the third period and hoped would be a momentum builder.
"It was tough sleeping last night knowing I could've been a lot better and impacted the game a lot, " O'Reilly said Friday. "But coming to the rink today, it's a new day and we've got to prepare for Toronto. It's going to happen but my focus is on (Saturday's) game and making an impact."
The Sabres again will be without Zemgus Girgensons, who did not play on Thursday because of a mid-body injury. The center will miss at least two more games.
Buffalo defenseman Cody Franson, a former Maple Leaf, injured his foot blocking a shot against Anaheim and will not play Saturday. Taylor Fedun is expected to replace him in the lineup.
The Maple Leafs will be playing the third game of four in a row at home on Saturday. They beat the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Tuesday and lost to the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in overtime on Thursday.
Maple Leafs right winger Nikita Soshnikov participated in practice Friday after missing the game Thursday with an upper-body injury. His status for the game against the Sabres will not be known until after the morning skate on Saturday.
Frederik Andersen, who stopped 38 shots in the game Thursday, will start in goal against Buffalo. Defensemen Martin Marincin and Alexey Marchenko are likely to be healthy scratches again. Marchenko was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings last Saturday.
After allowing 22 goals in four games, the Maple Leafs have tightened defensively in the past two games, even though the Blues had 40 shots on goal on Thursday.
"When we do a good job like we have the last two games, and be on the inside and check real well, I think it really helps the goaltending," Babcock said. "So, some nights you give up not very many shots but you give up back-door opportunities, and that's hard on the goalie. The other thing is shots from the outside, if you're inside, aren't as big a deal."