Buffalo Sabres (28-22-4) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (34-15-8)
Puck Drop: 7:30 PM ET KeyBank Center
TV: ESPN+, Hulu
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Know Your Opponent
Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Game: 5-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks
Division Ranking: 2nd in the Atlantic Division
PP: 25.42% (4th)
PK: 81.03% (11th)
What to Watch
1. Clash of the Titans: TNT vs. the Factor
Back in 2018, the Buffalo Sabres traded Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for two draft picks and three forwards, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson. Thompson became the best former Blue to come to Buffalo, now a top center on the Sabres’ highest scoring line.
O’Reilly, of course, won a Stanley Cup with the Blues, but with his production level dropping, St. Louis felt his best days were behind him and recently traded him to the Leafs as part of a three-team deal with the Minnesota Wild.
In O’Reilly’s best season, he scored 28 goals and 49 assists. This year, he’s had just 12 and 8, respectively. While part of that could be because of a broken foot he suffered in January, No. 90’s goal production declined for the second consecutive season.
Thompson, meanwhile, had 38 goals last year, 10 better than O’Reilly in his highest season and is now only two away from tying his goal total from 2021-22. Will “The Factor” be a factor against the Sabres or can TNT blow up the Leafs’ net? Fans will want to find out.
2. Buffalo Better Record Against Toronto
Since these two opponents first played on 11/18/1970, the Sabres won 120 games, lost 85 and tied 18 (regular season). Toronto dominated Buffalo in recent years, winning more often than not. However, the tables have turned since 2022.
The Sabres won three of their last five games against their division rival, not losing at home since 11/13/2021. While Toronto’s become a much better Atlantic Division team, so has Buffalo, climbing to the middle of the standings and beating high-ranking opponents including the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals.
There’s nobody Sabres fans enjoy seeing lose more than the Leafs and their legions of supporters who take over KeyBank Center when these two opponents meet. Let’s hope it happens again tonight.
3. Bet on Home Underdog Sabres
While most betting action favors the higher-ranked Leafs in this contest, Mike Fink of Winners and Whiners.com disagrees. Toronto’s scoring lines have had a great season, with a 3.40 goals per game average, but Buffalo’s offense has too, scoring 3.70 GPG.
Despite the Sabres’ weaker defense and goaltending, Fink feels Buffalo’s forwards including Thompson and Tuch, should find the back of the net at will. The Blue and Gold’s defense will limit Toronto’s offense, with Dahlin, Power and the rest of the d-men creating turnovers and limiting shots on net.
Fink predicts the Sabres get their third straight victory with favorable odds as home underdogs. Take Buffalo’s moneyline to win.
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka – Dylan Cozens – Victor Olofsson
Casey Mittelstadt – Peyton Krebs – Jack Quinn
Zemgus Girgensons – Tyson Jost – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju
Mattias Samuelsson – Owen Power
Jacob Bryson – Ilya Lyubushkin
Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (likely), Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie
Injuries: Kale Clague
Toronto Maple Leafs
Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
John Tavares – Ryan O’Reilly – Mitchell Marner
Pierre Engvall – David Kampf – Calle Jarnkrok
Zach Aston-Reese – Noel Acciari – Alexander Kerfoot
Morgan Reilly - Justin Holl
Mark Giordano – Timothy Lijegren
TJ Brodie - Connor Timmins
Goaltenders: Ilya Samsonov (likely), Joseph Woll
Injuries: Matt Murray, Victor Mete, Rasmus Sandin, Nicholas Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Carl Dahlstrom