Game Preview: A needed two points

Game Preview: A needed two points

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In the first two weeks of December, which is now two days away, the Leafs will face San Jose, St. Louis, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Pittsburgh. First, they will play a back to back against Buffalo and Montreal to close out November. Seems like they should probably pick up a few points starting tonight.

The Leafs are 4-5-2 in the month of November and will have to sweep this back to back to come out with a winning record in a relatively easy month, one that features three games with tonight’s last-placed opponent. Guess when the Sabres last won a game? Yep, against the Leafs in the first leg of their November 15/16 back to back. Five consecutive regulation losses since (one to the Leafs) has this Sabres team well on track for the first overall draft selection in the 2014 draft with a putrid 5-20-1 record. The Sabres haven’t scored more than a goal in a game since their two-goal third period in Toronto two weeks ago.

The Leafs didn’t play particularly well against Buffalo in either game of the home and home, but went 1-1 and were without Kadri and Bozak. That said, the first game was somewhat of a trap if you consider the Leafs were without their entire center group and Ted Nolan was coaching his first game behind the Buffalo bench. The first 40 minutes of the second game featured some dominant spells by the Leafs, but a near-collapse in the third period left a bad taste in the mouth.

On that note, Randy Carlyle, with the number of optional skates he’s been holding in the last month, seems to think energy is an issue for his team when they waver (i.e. every game) in their sixty minute effort. That could be the case, but it seems their main issue is reacting to certain situations thrown their way by the opposition when they start bringing the pressure by pinching with their D down the boards – which seems to be exploiting a systemic sore spot. Is it any coincidence the hold on leads has been tenuous at times for this team?

Lineup Notes:

Carter Ashton has been recalled from the Toronto Marlies. He last played on November 15 vs. these same Buffalo Sabres and was sent down on November 21 when Kadri came back from suspension and Bozak had also returned from injury. In two games down with the Marlies, Ashton tallied three points (1 goal, 2 assists). The fourth line is better off with him, his board play and physicality, on it as far as I’m concerned.

We won’t know lineup information until game time given the optional practice. On D, one imagines Jake Gardiner draws back in and Jonas Siegel seems to think it could be Morgan Rielly coming out.

Not sure why Mark Fraser and Cody Franson are immune to the rotation here.

James Reimer will start in net, with Jonathan Bernier getting the start in his hometown tomorrow in Montreal.

This is a game the Leafs simply have to win. They’re stumbling, and somewhat to their credit still scraping along at around .500, but a blowout at the hands of Columbus followed by the 4-1 and 5-3 lead forfeitures to Pittsburgh has the Leafs in a position where a loss to the 5-20 Sabres would be pretty crushing.

Carlyle Game Day Presser:

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]