Buffalo Sabres (32-28-5) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (40-17-8)
Puck Drop: 7:30 PM EST | Scotiabank Arena | Toronto, ON
TV: MSG-B, ESPN+
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Maple Leafs Blog: Pension Plan Puppets
Know Your Opponent
Toronto Maple Leafs
Record: 40-17-8 | 88 PTS
Last Game: 7-4 Win vs. Oilers
Last 10: 7-3-0
PP: 3rd (25.8%)
PK: 13th (80.9%)
What to Watch
1. Big Absences in Exchange for a Possible Return
Alex Tuch - who has certainly proven himself worthy of a spot in the top line this season - missed the last eight games due to a lower-body injury. However, as Sabres fans are desperate for good news given the state of our playoff chances these days, here it is: he participated in a full practice Sunday with linemates Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson. While his presence on the ice against the Leafs tonight is not guaranteed, it is actually probable according to head coach Don Granato who said, “Signs are really good, so we’ll see what that means in relation to tomorrow [Monday], but it is absolutely looking like it’s going to be fairly soon, if not tomorrow.” In 57 games, Tuch has 62 points (28 goals, 34 assists).
Unfortunately, though, Buffalo will now be without, arguably, their two best defensemen in Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson. Both suffered injuries during Saturday’s game against the Rangers and Samuelsson will be out longer term than Dahlin who is considered day-to-day and still might see ice time against Toronto. With now just over a 3% chance of making the playoffs, this was definitely not on the list of things the team needed.
2. Another Stacked Team
The Sabres have one of the most difficult schedules in the NHL for the remainder of the regular season and tonight will definitely be a challenge. Their rivalry against Toronto is sure to continue in the first of a three-game road trip (as they head to Washington and Philadelphia later in the week) and their last time facing each other this season.
The Maple Leafs are intimidating, to say the least, but the Sabres will really have to watch their penalty count tonight, especially after some pretty careless ones against the Rangers (the officiating was also horrible on Saturday, but I digress). Though the Leafs are just slightly better than the Sabres on the powerplay, the latter is dismal on the penalty kill at 31st in the league. Buffalo will really want to avoid the following at all costs:
Power Play Passing: Perfect pic.twitter.com/CKtPTUOpv2— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 12, 2023
At least the Sabres’ away record is solid, eh?
3. Battle of the Sixes
Among the many players to watch on both sides tonight, a few have some solid stats in common. In each team’s last five games, Skinner and Morgan Rielly have each racked up six assists each. “TNT” Thompson has six goals and five assists and is the first player since Alexander Mogilny and Pat LaFontaine (1992-1993) to record at least 42 goals and 44 assists in a single season.
I would be willing to bet at least one of these forwards adds to their point total tonight.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch*
JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn
Victor Olofsson - Tyson Jost - Vinnie Hinostroza
Casey Mittelstadt - Peyton Krebs - Jordan Greenway
Owen Power - Henri Jokiharju
Riley Stillman - Ilya Lyubushkin
Jacob Bryson - Kale Clague
Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (expected), Craig Anderson
*Tuch had a full practice on Sunday, but it is unclear if he will play tonight.
**Mattias Samuelsson is out week-to-week; Rasmus Dahlin is out day-to-day, but participated in this morning’s skate. Both have upper-body injuries.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Michael Bunting - John Tavares
William Nylander - Sam Lafferty - Calle Jarnkrok
Aston-Reese - David Kampf - Noel Acciari
Jake McCabe - TJ Brodie
Mark Giordano - Justin Holl
Morgan Rielly - Timothy Liljegren
Goaltenders: Ilya Samsonov (expected), Matt Murray