Sabres at Maple Leafs Preview: First Divisional Game, Back-To-Back For Buffalo

Peek-a-boo! - Claus Andersen

The Sabres look to start the season 2-0-0 as they visit Toronto for their first of four divisional match ups with the Leafs. Here are your expected lines and a Q&A with our Leafs bloggers.

The Sabres opened the 2013 season yesterday with a win over the Philadelphia Flyers, something they couldn't manage to do once last season. Now they face both their first divisional opponent and their first set of back-to-back games. They showed toughness and grit in the opener, but can they keep their momentum going?

Game #2 - Buffalo Sabres (1-0-0) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (1-0-0)

Puck Drop - 7:00pm - Air Canada Centre - Toronto, ON
TV - MSG, SNET-ONTARIO Radio - WGR 550-AM
Leafs Blog - Pension Plan Puppets (Please play nice if you're going to visit.)

Story

The Sabres and Leafs both enter this game as two of league's "best" teams, with undefeated records. Granted, they're both just 1-0-0, but how often have we gotten a first place match up between these two teams in recent memory?

Buffalo was impressively physical in their opening game against the Flyers, with Drew Stafford and Steve Ott sending the message that this year is going to be different than the last. Thomas Vanek exploded for five points (2+3) in the opener, and is currently tied for the league lead in points with Marian Hossa. We'll see if the Sabres can keep their energy levels up just a day after an emotional win.

Oh, and Sabres fans have to wait one more day to hear the dulcet voice of Rick Jeanneret calling the game. He's still feeling ill, so Kevin Sylvester will fill in tonight. I know, I know.

Three Questions For The Enemy

Thanks to the folks at PPP for swapping questions and answers with us. Check out our responses at PPP.

1. What are the thoughts among Toronto fans about the big changes in the Leafs front office?
The timing really took people by surprise and it certainly didn't help that the Leafs' communication was about as good as most other things have been lately. The result was that we had the COO Tom Anselmi muddling through the press conference talking about personality clashes which the media and Burke backers jumped on (IT'S HAROLD BALLARD ALL OVER AGAIN!) before the good writers (and Burke himself) got the story that the firing was results based. Furthermore, at issue was that the board didn't feel that Burke had a plan going forward.

The option then became to leave a guy in that you don't trust or find someone that can get things back on track. Obviously keeping Nonis around was seen as further proof that it was about personality. However, I think that Nonis' first moves have shown a distinction between himself and what I think it could be argued Burke would have done.

2. How does the Leafs goaltending situation look with Scrivens and Reimer this year compared to Gustavsson and Toskala?
Well, Scrivens and Reimer are not huge piles of sh*t so it's definitely an improvement. Sticking with Toskala can probably be seen as the move that cost Burke his job because of the knock on effect. Gustavsson I feel sorry for because he was tossed into the deep end, had the heart ablation, and then had to deal with Toskala who by all accounts was a loner and didn't interact well with his battery mate.

Both have a strong track record in the AHL, for what it's worth, and Reimer at least has had some success at the NHL level. The upside is that the Leafs will be able to get some idea of what they have in these two. If they are league average than the Leafs are laughing and at least know they have part of a goaltending duo. If one of them takes the reins then maybe their issues are in the past. It goes without saying that the latter is a long shot.


3. Did you end up hating Tim Connolly as much as we did?
Personally I didn't but I know that there is a big portion of Leafs fans did. To be frank, it comes from having a binary viewpoint on things. When Connolly signed, it was a low-risk, high-reward move. Although he did have some early success with Kessel and Lupul, he was shifted to the third line. In part I think that the goal was to have more balanced lines and Wilson felt that Bozak couldn't contribute as much in that role. But of course people forget that he was good in that role. He also didn't get the PP or PK time that he had expected. I'm not sure if Wilson and Burke didn't speak before the deal but Connolly definitely wasn't put in a position to succeed.

And this year, when it became apparent that he wasn't going to make the team, he took his medicine and went to the AHL which was possible because he didn't have a no trade clause. So the signing didn't work out in part because of the way he was used by the coach but it wasn't a millstone like some people say it was. Overall, it just didn't work out. Not like he didn't try.

Buffalo Lines

Vanek - Hodgson - Pominville
Foligno - Ennis - Stafford
Ott - Grigorenko - Hecht
Scott - Ellis- Kaleta

Myers - Regehr
Ehrhoff - Sulzer
Sekera - Leopold

Goal: Ryan Miller

Scratches: Leino, Weber, Brennan

Toronto Lines

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur
- Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Mike Brown
- Jay McClement - Colton Orr/David Steckel

Dion Phaneuf - Mike Kostka
John-Michael Liles
- Cody Franson
Carl Gunnarsson
- Mike Komisarek

Goal: Ben Scrivens

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