Sabres-Maple Leafs Preview
Getting some players back healthy would improve their chances.
The Sabres hope to have up to five players back from an illness, as they try to end an eight-game road losing streak by winning in Toronto for just the second time in nine tries Friday night.
Buffalo (10-24-3) owns the fewest points in the NHL, and the team is 3-12-1 on the road. The Sabres last won as the visitor on Nov. 5, when Cody Hodgson netted the decisive shootout goal in a 5-4 win at San Jose.
Since then, they've been outscored 26-9 in eight road games, their longest losing streak as the visitor since a team-record 12-game slide from Dec. 17, 2011-Jan. 21, 2012.
Buffalo, though, has created some momentum at home, going 4-0-1 while winning three in a row after beating Phoenix 2-1 on a bizarre goal in overtime Monday. Mark Pysyk's shot deflected into the air and landed on the back of Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith, who retreated into his net and unknowingly crossed the line with the puck.
"People out there want to see hard work and results. I think hard work is the formula to get results," Pysyk said.
Healthy players also help. The Sabres were reduced to 16 skaters versus Phoenix after a virus sidelined Hodgson, Linus Omark, Ville Leino, Marcus Foligno and Alexander Sulzer, causing them to recall Pysyk from Rochester of the AHL.
Hodgson leads the Sabres with 19 points, but he has just three assists over his last nine road games. One of those points came on Tyler Ennis' goal in a 4-2 loss at Toronto on Nov. 16.
The Sabres have dropped seven of their last eight visits to Toronto since a 3-2 shootout victory on Nov. 6, 2010.
Ennis, who is tied for the team lead with eight goals, has three goals and one assist over his past four contests in Toronto.
The Maple Leafs (18-16-5) may be thrilled to host the Sabres since they're 4-6-1 at home after winning eight of their first 10.
The venue, however, hasn't mattered much of late. Toronto is 2-5-2 in its last nine games, with three in a row going to shootouts and the last two ending in defeats. In Monday's 2-1 road loss to the New York Rangers, Nazem Kadri salvaged a point by tying the game with 1:24 left in regulation.
"I don't think we played our best game, but we hung in there," goaltender Jonathan Bernier said. "We stole a point probably."
It's unclear if Bernier will be back in net since he's lost all three of his meetings with the Sabres behind a 3.39 goals-against average. However, he's stopped 67 of 69 shots through overtime while losing the last two games via shootouts.
James Reimer has won all four home games against Buffalo with a 2.50 GAA, but he's 1-1-0 with a 3.77 GAA while being pulled from two of his last four starts.
James van Riemsdyk has scored two goals in each of the past two home matchups with the Sabres. However, he hasn't scored at the Air Canada Centre since the Nov. 12 meeting with Buffalo, spanning 12 games.