Coming off a tough shootout loss against the Flyers last night, the Leafs will look to rebound on the road against the Sabres tonight at HSBC Arena. Despite blowing a late third period lead, there was a lot to like about the Leafs’ performance, including a strong bounce back game from captain Dion Phaneuf and spurts of brilliance from the club’s new top line of Versteeg, Bozak and Kessel. The Buds will be in tough tonight against the Sabres, who will be icing a lineup very similar to the one they will open the season with.
Key Notes for Tonight’s Game:
– Kadri will once again get a chance to prove he deserves to start the year with the big club. After struggling to find much chemistry with Versteeg and Armstrong last time out and eventually getting pulled off that line, Kadri will again have two NHL calibre wingers flanking him tonight in Armstrong and Caputi. As Wilson noted after Thursday night’s game against the Flyers, the team cannot afford to wait for Kadri to get going if he comes out slow out of the gate. He will have to play with flair and intensity right from the opening puck drop if he wants to maintain a consistent shift for a whole 60 minutes.
– The team’s second line will feature the combination of MacArthur, Grabovski and Kulemin who looked to be getting quite comfortable with each other against the Flyers. While Grabovski does have a tendency to occasionally take a shift off defensively, he will surely benefit from having two workmanlike wingers on either side. I’ve been quite impressed with MacArthur’s speed, tenacity, and backchecking so far this preseason.
– Forward Andrew Crescenzi, who was recently signed to an entry-level contract by the Maple Leafs, will suit up alongside Marcel Mueller and Alex Foster tonight. Good on the kid for turning a strong rookie tournament performance into an NHL contract. He didn’t do a whole lot of damage to the scoresheet but did show an ability to play an up-tempo physical style of game.
– The Leafs’ blueline will be very, very young tonight and could be in for a long night against a very good Sabres’ forward group. The only defenseman with even moderate NHL experience is Luke Schenn, and look for him to handle a 25+ minutes workload. Luke will be paired with surprise performer Danny Richmond, who has impressed with his offensive instincts and puck rushing ability so far this preseason. Holzer, Mikus, Blacker and Aulie will round out the team’s defense corps.
– Jonas Gustavsson will be starting in net and is slated to play a full 60 minutes, with Jussi Rynnas as his backup.
Here are the full lineups for both teams, courtesy of Ken Beckett:
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
Colby Armstrong – Nazem Kadri – Luca Caputi
Clarke MacArthur – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
Marcel Mueller – Andrew Crescenzi – Alex Foster
Jay Rosehill – Christian Hanson – John Mitchell
Luke Schenn – Danny Richmond
Juraj Mikus – Korbinian Holzer
Keith Aulie – Jesse Blacker
Buffalo Sabres Projected Lines
Thomas Vanek – Derek Roy – Drew Stafford
Luke Adam – Tim Connolly – Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis – Rob Niedermayer – Zack Kassian
Nathan Gerbe – Paul Gaustad – Cody McCormick
Shaone Morrisonn – Tyler Myers
Chris Butler – Drew Schiestel
Andrej Sekera – Brayden McNabb
The puck drops tonight @ 7pm EST and the game will be broadcast on LeafsTV.