Toronto Maple Leafs-Buffalo Sabres Preview: Mike Van Ryn Back In Blue

Dino MoriAnalyst IDecember 12, 2008

34 days after a vicious Tom Kotsopolous hit sent him to the sidelines, Mike Van Ryn returns to the Maple Leafs lineup when they take on the Sabres in Buffalo tonight.

It was just over a month ago when Van Ryn was wallpapered into the end boards by Montreal Canadiens forward Kotsopolous and suffered a broken bone in his hand and a concussion.

Kotsopolous received a three-game suspension by league officials for this infraction.

Van Ryn, who was acquired last September from the Florida Panthers in the Bryan McCabe deal, missed 14 games after registering eight points in 14 contests prior to the injury.

With Van Ryn back, expect coach Ron Wilson to sit Anton Stralman, who has just one assist in his past seven games. 

Fellow blueliner Jamie Sifers is expected play his second straight game after an impressive debut versus Long Island on Tuesday.  He along with Jeremy Williams were summoned from the AHL's Marlies after injuries to rookie Luke Schenn and forward Niklas Hagman depleted the Leafs starting lineup.

Hagman will not play this evening as he still recovers from a concussion suffered on Dec. 6 versus Washington.  Schenn will sit for another few weeks with a knee injury, after colliding with Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin.

Toronto enters this game five points back of Buffalo in the Northeast division.  Toronto ended a three-game losing streak on Tuesday beating a very bad Islanders squad, 4-2, at the Air Canada Center.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are in the midst of a three-game win streak.  Each time the club came from behind to record the win, twice against the Tampa Bay Lightning and once versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Buffalo is led by the NHL's goal-scoring leader Thomas Vanek, who has 22 thus far—two more than Philadelphia's Jeff Carter.

Toronto net-minder Vesa Toskala will likely oppose Buffalo puck-stopper Ryan Miller.  Puck drops at 7:37 pm from the HSBC Arena.