The difference between Game #20 and 21 for the Buffalo Sabres has been far more massive than the small increase in the ones column might indicate.
Since the Sabres last took the ice, they fired their new head coach and general manager of 6,000 days, created a new position and brought in Pat LaFontaine to run the hockey side of things, and re-hired Ted Nolan as interim coach, who promptly reinserted John Scott to the lineup and shuffled the lines around in an attempt to shake the Sabres out of their season-long slumber.
So yeah, things will be a little different tonight in Buffalo.
As if the excitement for this game wasn't already at a fever pitch (or at least as fevered as it gets for a last place team) tonight's game sees the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town for the first time this season. The last time these teams met, Ron Rolston was fined for player selection by instructing John Scott to assimilate Phil Kessel, and the Leafs players took some umbrage with that strategy.
The First Niagara Center will be buzzing tonight, and the Sabres are holding some festivities out in Alumni Plaza starting at 5:30. The team is also starting its Thanksgiving food drive, so feel free to bring a canned good down to the arena to donate. Or throw at Colton Orr, your choice.
(4-15-1) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (11-6-1)
Puck Drop - 7:00pm EST - First Niagara Center - Buffalo, NY
TV - MSG, Bell TV | Radio - WGR 550-AM
SBNation Leafs Blog - Pension Plan Puppets
1. Will the coaching change have an immediate impact on the on-ice product?
One of the Sabres' big Achilles Heels over the past 20 games has been their incredibly awful first periods. Buffalo has been outscored 27-3 in the first stanza, and if Nolan can at least get them to come out of the gate with some jump and - god forbid - get a lead, he'll be confirmed as the right man for the job.
Effort has been inconsistent in Buffalo under Ron Rolston, and Nolan has already voiced his displeasure with the team's conditioning. Whether or not the adrenaline of a new coach behind the bench can spur the Sabres to give 60 full minutes of effort remains to be seen, but a close game in the third period would be a welcome relief for Sabres fans.
2. How will Ville Leino and Zemgus Girgensons fare at center?
Nolan is going to put players in positions they feel comfortable in, he said today, and one of his first big moves was to put Girgensons and Leino back at center while shifting Marcus Foligno to wing. Leino has been invisible this season, and despite his work ethic, Girgensons hasn't put many points on the board. Will playing the pivot jump-start their production, or will they look lost in the middle?
3. Considering what happened the last time these teams met, will we see any fireworks on the ice between these two teams?
Big John Scott is back in the lineup to face Toronto, where was last seen trying to eat Phil Kessel. The Sabres and Leafs are ranked #1/2 in fighting majors this season, and it seems like they don't like each other. Will it lead to gloves being dropped? Will Kessel take any more golf swings at Buffalo players?
Projected BUF Lines
Goal: Ryan Miller
Scratches/Injuries/Suspensions: Grigorenko, Larsson, Zadorov, Weber