Tonight the Sabres play host to their divisional rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in an attempt to snap an abysmal three game skid.
Just five games into the season Buffalo has shown opposite ends of the spectrum. After opening with two strong wins against the Flyers and the Leafs, the Sabres dropped two to the Hurricanes and another in the nation’s capital.
The Maple Leafs are also looking to get back into the win column after falling in their last two contests to the Islanders and Rangers. Ben Scrivens and James Reimer have been splitting the goaltending duties for Leafs.
Toronto’s youngsters Kadri, Van Riemsdyk and Grabovski are shouldering much of the offensive production while offensive studs Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul are off to slow starts. Also of note, is the slow start of all all-star defender Dion Phaneuf who’s is a -8 this year.
In their only other meeting of the truncated season, the Sabres were able to pick up two points and defeat the Leafs by a score of 2-1. Buffalo dominated much of the play, kept the Leafs offense to the perimeter and allowed Miller to see most of the shots.
On Toronto’s most dangerous chances Miller came up big and the defense was able to clear away the rebounds. Ryan Miller turned aside 34 of the 35 shots. The lone Toronto goal came late in the third shattering the chance at his first shutout this season.
However the Buffalo team that squared off at the Air Canada Centre has gone missing the past three tilts. The sloppy defense and careless giveaways that plagued the Sabres all last season have suddenly returned, and with Thomas Vanek out of the lineup, they have also struggled putting pucks in the back of the net.
Vanek has been practicing with the team and has not been ruled out for the Toronto game. Another bright spot for Buffalo’s offense were the signs of life Grigorenko exhibited in Washington. The 18-year-old practiced with the team on Monday and may play against the Leafs, which would begin the first year of his entry level deal.
Some key adjustments to look for out of the Sabres is the improvement of their struggling power play which has been an anemic 1/12 in the last three games. The Sabres have struggled with lazy defensive play in their three game slide so look for them to clear up second opportunities and make cleaner outlet passes.
Lindy Ruff made it a priority in Washington to get the puck deep and play dump and chase, however the Sabres forecheck was lackluster and it resulted in Buffalo chipping the puck right to the Washington defense. Look for the Sabres to up the physicality on the forecheck and work the puck down low.
Both teams come into the contest at 2-3-0. The puck drops at 7 p.m. EST and will be aired on MSG.