After putting the brakes on a three-game losing streak, the Toronto Maple Leafs will visit the HSBC Arena in Buffalo this Friday to tangle with the Sabres.
Suffice to say, it won't be an easy task.
Buffalo is playing about as well as any NHL team these days. The Sabres have won three straight—all come-from-behind victories—after a nasty stretch which saw the club go 2-8.
Toronto, meanwhile, stopped their slide with a 4-2 home victory versus the New York Islanders on Tuesday. Enigmatic winger Jason Blake enjoyed one of his best games as a Leaf, scoring once and assisting on two others. He, along with AHL Marlie call up Jeremy Williams were instrumental as the Leafs won their tenth game of the season.
Currently, Toronto and a plethora of teams are looking up as the Sabres, who hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 31 points. The Leafs, who have played as many games as the Sabres (28) have 26 points.
Toronto will again be without the services of rookie rearguard Luke Schenn against Buffalo. Schenn, whom coach Ron Wilson has called his best shutdown defenceman, injured his knee last Saturday when he hit by Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin. It is expected the 18-year-old will miss two weeks and possibly longer should test results from an MRI this week show any further damage.
Former Dallas Star and top line forward Niklas Hagman had his bell rung in a first period collision against the same Caps squad and suffered a concussion. It is unknown at this time whether he'll be available on Friday. Prior to the injury, Hagman appeared to be hitting his stride offensively, registering six points in his last six games.
Expect Wilson to keep Williams, a Saskatchewan native, in the starting lineup even if Hagman returns. Williams for the fourth time in as many call-ups scored for Toronto, and assisted on Blake's game winner versus Long Island. He, along with Blake and speedy winger Dominic Moore were easily the best trio on the ice at the Air Canada Centre Tuesday.
Another Marlie Jamie Sifers had an impressive debut for the Leafs in place of Schenn. Expect him to get his second straight start and be paired with free-agent, ex-Colorado Avalanche Jeff Finger.