Update: Enroth will start for Buffalo per Elliotte Friedman; he was pulled after one period in his only appearance this season after conceding 3 goals on 12 shots against Boston on Wednesday. Here’s hoping for a repeat performance.
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs return home to host the Buffalo Sabres. After a thrilling come-from-behind shootout loss to the NHL’s offensive juggernauts – Washington Capitals – Toronto seems to be heading back into the right direction. The Buffalo Sabres, on the other hand, are sporting the league’s worst record and riding a three game losing streak. They are also coming off a loss against the Habs last night, so the Leafs certainly have an edge rest-wise heading into this one. The worry does remain that the Sabres have matched up really well against the Leafs in recent times (winning ten of their last eleven against the Buds), but these seem to be two different teams since the onset of the 2010-11 campaign.
Clarke MacArthur, a 2003 Buffalo Sabres draft pick who spent his first first four NHL seasons with the club, seems to hold a bit of a grudge against his former team and will be looking to prove a point tonight. Last season, the Buffalo Sabres dealt MacArthur to the Atlanta Thrashers at the trade deadline for 2010 third and fourth round picks.
â€œThey can scuffle for a while longer,â€ said MacArthur of the Sabres poor start. â€œI donâ€™t want to see them turn the corner. We need these points bad tonight. We want to go get them.â€
J.S. Giguere gets the nod tonight, and if the Leafs can continue their recent scoring surge (they have six goals in their last 4 periods of play), the team will be a challenge for any opponent, as they have been all season long. Unfortunate for the player but fortunate for the Leafs, Ryan Miller is still sidelined with an upper-body injury. Miller is 22-8 against the Leafs all time. One of Patrick Lalime or Jhonas Enroth will mind the nets for the Sabres, who have posted a combined 0-4 record, so yeah… fortunate.
Korbinian Holzer will see his first NHL action. The big German rearguard will skate in place of Carl Gunnarsson and play alongside Brett Lebda. Holzer will look to bring a clean defensive game and some physicality to that pairing while Lebda will hopefully stop taking key penalties that have potentially cost the Leafs points on three separate occasions this young season, hard done by or not.
The one great thing to take away from the club’s first month of action is how low the final scores have been. Only twice this season has a team scored more than three goals against the Leafs (Flyers and Caps each scored 5), and every game aside from their loss against Philadelphia has been a close, hard-earned win/loss. Their work ethic and defensive play compared to last season… well, to the say the least, they are clearly not the same team. Offense continues to be a question mark, but if the Leafs continue to rush the net and generate more rebounds, sooner or later the bounces will go their way.
While the Leafs will certainly struggle to earn victories if their top six cannot find the back of the net, their goaltending has certainly provided them with every opportunity to earn 2 points in the standings.
There will also be a pre-game ceremony tonight honoring the new Hall of Fame inductees. Wings executive Jim Devellano, Dino Ciccarelli and the first two female players to be included – American Cammi Granato and Canadian Angela James.
Who’s Hot? Toronto:
Tomas Kaberle (D) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Kris Versteeg (W/C) 3 pts in last 2 GP
Nikolai Kulemin (LW/RW) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Mikhail Grabovski (C) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Clarke MacArthur (LW) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Who’s Hot? Buffalo:
Mike Grier (RW) 2 pts in last 2 GP
I will be liveblogging tonight’s game on The Checking Line.com. The action gets underway at 6:45 PM EST.
Micheal A. Aldred