NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, November 29th (All times Eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (14-9-2) at Buffalo Sabres (5-20-1), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Buffalo Sabres showed a bit of a spark two weeks ago when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in coach Ted Nolan's season debut on the bench.
Things have again gone south in a hurry for the Sabres and their interim bench boss and they try to avoid a sixth straight defeat on Friday night in a home matchup with the Maple Leafs.
Nolan began his second stint as the Sabres coach on Nov. 15 following the dismissal of general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston days earlier.
Buffalo won a 3-1 decision that night in the opener of a home-and-home set with Maple Leafs before getting bested 4-2 the following night in Toronto.
That was the beginning of a current five-game slide for the Sabres, their longest since a 0-5-1 start to the season. They have been outscored 18-6 over this skid, failing to score more than two goals in any of the contests.
Buffalo dropped a 3-1 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, with Ryan Miller allowing three goals on 31 shots faced and Matt Moulson notching the lone goal.
The Sabres held a closed door meeting after the game.
"When things are difficult, it's easy to point fingers, but this group is really starting to pay attention," Nolan said. "We're making strides in the right direction. We want to get better and it showed tonight. The guys had their own little chit-chat in the room and it shows me that they're starting to really care."
Nolan is hoping Moulson's goal gets him going as it marked his first tally since his two-goal debut with the club on Oct. 28 after being acquired from the New York Islanders. He does have seven assists and 10 points in total in 13 games with Buffalo.
The Sabres are likely to debut another new face tonight in forward Matt D'Agostini, who was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. He had just one assist in eight games with the Pens this season, but did score 21 goals with the St. Louis Blues in 2010-11.
Buffalo, which will visit the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, split starts between Miller and Jhonas Enroth in the home-and-home series two weeks ago.
Miller made 32 saves in the home win, improving to 30-15-1 with four shutouts and a 2.45 goals against average in his career versus the Maple Leafs, while Enroth gave up four goals on 22 shots in the road loss. He fell to 1-1-0 versus the Leafs with a 2.91 GAA.
Toronto tries to avoid a third straight loss tonight and is coming off a disappointing 6-5 shootout setback to Pittsburgh on Wednesday despite the point gained.
The Maple Leafs held leads of 4-1 and 5-3 before yielding a pair of third- period goals to the Penguins. Toronto then came up empty in the shootout, while Pittsburgh scored twice on Jonathan Bernier.
Bernier took the loss despite 43 saves and saw his offense get outshot 19-0 over the third period and overtime.
James van Riemsdyk scored twice and added an assist for the Leafs, who have lost three of four, while Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri each lit the lamp once.
"It's disappointing that we had a 4-1 lead and that was the result," van Riemsdyk said.
Toronto was without forward Joffrey Lupul, who suffered a strained groin in Monday's loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Leafs are also set to play on back-to-back nights as they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Like the Sabres, both Bernier and James Reimer saw action in the home-and-home set and could split starts again this weekend.
Bernier was in net for the loss in Buffalo, giving up two goals on 26 shots to fall to 0-3-0 with a 3.39 GAA lifetime versus the Sabres.
Reimer is 6-2-1 with a 3.31 GAA in his career versus the Sabres, stopping 33- of-35 shots faced in the home victory.
Buffalo has won five of six and 12 of its last 14 at home versus Toronto.
11/29 10:49:50 ET