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Being Bad is Getting Very Old: Sabres Look to Snap Seven-Game Losing Streak Against Leafs

Will the rivalry reignite? Buffalo heads to Toronto in first matchup of season

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NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Game 18

Buffalo Sabres (7-10-0) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (9-5-4)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | Scotiabank Arena | Toronto, ON

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Leafs Blog: Pension Plan Puppets

Know Your Opponent

Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 9-5-4 | 22 PTS

Last Game: 3-2 OT Loss vs. New Jersey Devils

Division Ranking: 2nd in Atlantic Division

PP: 7th (25.4%)

PK: 17th (78.3%)

What to Watch

1. Tommer Time, Still

If it seems like there’s only one silver lining to this horrible losing streak, it is probably because, well, there might only be one. His name is Tage Thompson. The star forward has had an excellent start to the season - unlike some of his teammates - and currently sits in first place in the NHL for goals with 11. After his lone goal on the powerplay against the Senators on Wednesday, he has now tied his career high point streak at six games. Will he extend it to seven games tonight to break his own record? It is more than likely as Thompson now has 22 points on the season (19 of which have been tallied in the last 10 games). In his last four matchups against the Maple Leafs, he has recorded at least one point in each of those games.

2. UPL Season Debut

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was called up from Rochester this week following Eric Comrie’s injury on Wednesday. While UPL has struggled in a Sabres uniform in the past (piled on top of surgery and numerous injuries over the last few years), perhaps he can start with a clean slate after having what he described as a successful offseason with Buffalo.

He is currently tied in the AHL for the most wins with six and has had an impressive 238 saves. In his last nine games with the Amerks, the Finnish goaltender has held his opponents to three or fewer goals.

While not confirmed to be starting tonight (though all signs point that way), it will be interesting to see what UPL does whenever that debut happens. To his credit, Craig Anderson has done well against the Leafs throughout his long career. He is 20-9-4 with a GAA of 2.80 in 36 games against Toronto.

3. Get it Together, Buffalo

It is hard to narrow down all the issues the Sabres are having, so let’s just hone in on scoring - or lack thereof - and how atrocious the powerplay has been, shall we? In their eight (!) powerplays versus the Senators, Thompson scored the lone goal of the game. The team generated just six shots and has generally been struggling with clean passing and getting the puck to the net for what feels like an eternity. This must improve and fans should be watching this closely tonight. In three out of their last five games, the Sabres walked away with just one goal. While goaltending is a whole different issue that may require its own dedicated article, you simply cannot win games by only scoring one goal - whether the goaltending is good or not. Scoring will be especially important tonight to keep up with the likes of Toronto stars Mitch Marner (20 points), Auston Matthews (19 points), and John Tavares (18 points).

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch

Jack Quinn - Dylan Cozens - JJ Peterka

Peyton Krebs - Casey Mittelstadt - Victor Olofsson

Rasmus Asplund - Riley Sheahan - Vinnie Hinostroza

Defense

Rasmus Dahlin - Owen Power

Mattias Samuelsson* - Henri Jokiharju

Jacob Bryson - Ilya Lyubushkin

Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (projected starter), Craig Anderson

*Samuelsson returned to his first practice this week after sustaining a lower-body injury back on October 22. He may or may not be in the lineup tonight.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - William Nylander

Alexander Kerfoot - John Tavares - Mitchell Marner

Pierre Engvall - Pontus Holmberg - Calle Jarnkrok

Zach Aston-Reese - David Kampf - Denis Malgin

Defense

Morgan Rielly - Jordie Benn

Mark Giordano - Justin Holl

Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren

Goaltenders: Erik Kallgren, Matt Murray (expected)