Maple Leafs vs. Sabres Preview: Another Canadian Teams Playoff Hopes Are On The Line

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 12: Tim Connolly #19 of the Buffalo Sabres is held up by James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game on March 12, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Sabres 4-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs tragic number is 5. That means the total amount of points that either the Sabres obtain or the Maple Leafs lose brings that number closer to zero. Once that number hits zero, the Leafs are out of the playoffs. That's why this game is a must win for the Leafs to keep their slim playoff chances alive. 

The Sabres are winners of their last three games and have taken points in their last five games. The Sabres have been on this type of role since the start of the new year and they need a total of nine points either won or lost by the Hurricanes to clinch a playoff spot. Sports Club Stats give the Sabres a 91.6% chance of making the playoffs and with the Hurricanes in action tonight that could increase to 99.2% if everything aligns correctly. 

The updates from practice are not terrible. Mike Grier did not practice with the team after aggravating a knee injury on Saturday against the Devils. Mark Mancari has stayed with the team and will most likely replace Grier in the lineup. Marc-Andre Gragnani has been called up from Portland to replace Jordon Leopold on the roster but whether he will play or not has yet to be seen. 

Ryan Miller has been fantastic in the last week and was just named the first star of the week in the league. He went 3-0 with two shutouts and stopping 83 of 85 shots he saw this week. Miller says he is feeling better as the team heads down the stretch:

"I'm feeling better, feeling like I'm in the play a lot more and able to get in the flow of it," Miller said. "It has a lot more to do with attention to detail around me and I can commit to some things. Way earlier in the season, we were hesitant on some plays and that makes me wait for things to unfold and that's a tough position to be in sometimes. Right now I'm trying to dictate the play, force guys to do what they don't want to do."

Miller has had plenty of success against the Maple Leafs in his career. He is 24-10-0 with a 2.23 goals against average and .923 save percentage in his career against Toronto but allowed four goals in his most recent game against the Leafs. 

The Leafs have won the last two matchups against the Sabres after Buffalo won the first three of the season and both teams are looking to pick up as many points as possible. Nothing would be sweeter though for Sabres fans if the team knocked the Leafs out of the playoffs. Game time is 7:00 pm on MSG.

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