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Sabres Travel North for First Maple Leafs Matchup

Mar 13, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (88) battles off Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (26) before scoring during the third period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Preview & Open Thread

Game #12

Buffalo Sabres (5-6-0) at Toronto Maple Leafs (5-3-2)

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

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

Know Your Opponent

Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 5-3-2 | 12 PTS

Division Ranking: 3rd in Atlantic Division

Last Game: 3-2 Shootout Loss vs. Boston Bruins

PP: 5th (29.4%)

PK: T20th (75.8%)

What to Watch

1. We’re Soarin’, Flyin’

Who’s hot at the moment? Well, for starters, Jeff Skinner has looked solid during this first month of the regular season. Until last night’s disappointment against the Flyers, Skinner was riding a six-game point streak and also recorded his 9th even-strength point. In addition to Mr. Smiley, JJ Peterka is on his own point streak of four games – a career-high. Casey Mittelstadt has been fun to watch, too, as he continues to improve with each game. Since March, he has been very consistent offensively, leading his team in assists (19) and points (27), as well as even-strength points (26). Mittelstadt has 10 points in 11 games so far this season.

In other news, Mattias Samuelsson left last night’s game with a lower-body injury and might miss some future ice time, but there have been no real updates since then. He missed a stretch of games late last season and it was noticeable, to say the least. With Samuelsson on the ice, the Sabres were 32-18-4; without him, they were 9-15-3.

2. Pucks to the Net

Buffalo has had a bit of trouble getting shots on goal these last few seasons, but this has been especially evident this week. In Wednesday’s game, they managed to somehow win with only 15 shots on goal in the entire 60 minutes compared to Philadelphia’s 40. Friday night’s home game proved slightly more plentiful in terms of shots with 22, but the team only contributed four shots in the first period. Buffalo never recovered and, as a result, became frustrated with another home loss.

The Sabres sit 18th in the league in goals and 29th (!) in the league in shots on goal. They are also 30th on the powerplay, which has been an ongoing woe for the club for many years. All of these offensive issues absolutely need to be addressed moving forward or the playoffs are going to become another pipe dream. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was clearly lost last night, but so was the offense.

3. Rake the Leaves

The Sabres should look to tonight as an opportunity to turn their embarrassing play from last night around against their longtime rivals in Toronto. Just like Buffalo, the Maple Leafs’ home record is worse than their away record. We need to use this to our advantage tonight as well as the Leafs’ current losing streak of three games. Buffalo should also be ready to show more physicality, which was lacking greatly against the Flyers (minus Dylan Cozens’ fight late in the third period). This does not necessarily mean getting on the ice with the intention of fighting, but it should mean making your presence known.

Toronto forwards to keep an eye on will be Auston Matthews (obviously) and William Nylander – both of whom are dominating offensively. Matthews is tied for fourth in the league with eight goals, while Nylander is on a 10-game point streak. Look alive, Sabres.

Projected Lineups*

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jordan Greenway – Tage Thompson – Brandon Biro

Jeff Skinner – Casey Mittelstadt – JJ Peterka

Lukas Rousek** – Dylan Cozens – Alex Tuch

Zemgus Girgensons – Peyton Krebs – Kyle Okposo

*There was no scheduled practice this morning, so these projections are based on last night’s game.

**Tyson Jost was a healthy scratch last night. He may find his way into the lineup tonight (and, to be honest, he should play instead of Rousek).

Defense

Rasmus Dahlin – Mattias Samuelsson***

Owen Power – Henri Jokiharju

Connor Clifton – Erik Johnson

Goaltenders: Devon Levi (starter), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

***Samuelsson left last night’s game with a lower-body injury but was not on the injury list as of this morning. His participation in tonight’s matchup could change.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

Calle Jarnkrok – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner

Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – William Nylander

Matthew Knies – David Kampf – Max Domi

Noah Gregor – Pontus Holmberg – Ryan Reaves

Defense

Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie

Mark Giordano – Simon Benoit/Max Lajoie*

William Lagesson – John Klinogberg

*Timothy Liljegren suffered an injury earlier this week and is on long-term IR. Benoit and Lajoie were called up from the AHL, so defensive pairings may get jumbled before the puck drop.

Goaltenders: Joseph Woll (expected starter), Ilya Samsonov