Leafs try to bury Sabres again
The Buffalo Sabres can only hope that their second visit to play the Toronto Maple Leafs in five days works out better than the first one.
The Sabres scored first Monday, then watched the Maple Leafs reel off four straight second-period goals and to hold on for a 5-3 victory.
The Maple Leafs have won both games between the teams this season. After the game Monday, the Maple Leafs defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-2, again using a four-game second-period outburst. With backup goaltender Garret Sparks playing, the Maple Leafs lost 6-1 Thursday to the New York Islanders.
The Maple Leafs are playing with a depleted defense with Jake Gardiner (back) out on a week-to-week basis and Travis Dermott (shoulder) sidelined for four weeks.
Igor Ozhiganov and Justin Holl are seeing more action and Martin Marincin has been recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri has been out with a concussion.
With the return of John Tavares for his first game as a visitor against the Islanders, there was a playoff atmosphere with hostility directed at a player who had left as a free agent last summer.
The game showed that the Maple Leafs are not playoff-ready.
"We didn't stay patient enough with our plan and, in the end, they capitalized," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "I really believe this is a lesson we have to learn. That's what the regular season is for is you've got to learn those lessons. (The Islanders have) more of a veteran team than us, you can tell by the way they take care of the puck."
There is time for the Maple Leafs to prepare for the postseason. "We're fortunate that I think we've got 19 games left," Babcock said. "You do this in the playoffs, you lose, you're done right there. We've got these dress rehearsals and then we've got to get points to get in the playoffs."
Goaltender Frederik Andersen is expected to start for Toronto.
The Sabres came back to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime Friday night with Linus Ullmark getting the start. Ullmark replaced Carter Hutton during the second period in Toronto.
Ullmark played a stong game, stopping 41 shots. The Sabres tied the game at 17:28 in the third period on Brandon Montour's goal. Conor Sheary's second goal of the game was the overtime winner.
Hutton suffered a lower-body injury in practice Thursday, but was deemed fit to at least back up Friday and might be ready to start Saturday.
After their defeat in Toronto, the Sabres lost 5-2 on the road to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
"We've got too many guys standing around in front of our net whacking at pucks, and it's just about picking up and being tougher to play against in that area," Sabres coach Phil Housley said after the game. "I think it's just disappointing because it's a game of mistakes and right now we're making more mistakes than the other team. I still like the fight in our group, though. Sticking together and finding until the end. But we can't be chasing or trading chances with teams. That's not our game."
Sabres left winger Jeff Skinner is in a season-long goal drought of seven games and is stuck at 36.
"You want to contribute and you want to contribute to a win," Skinner said. "It sort of is what it is. You have to fight through it."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 2, 2019