Leafs visit Buffalo with shot at back-to-back wins
The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to put consecutive wins together for the first time in over two weeks when they visit the Buffalo Sabres for Thursday's divisional clash at First Niagara Center.
The Maple Leafs halted a five-game slide with Wednesday's 4-2 victory against visiting Tampa Bay. The victory gave Toronto a 1-1-1 record on its three-game homestand, bring the Leafs' home mark to 7-6-2 this season.
Despite going 0-3-2 prior to beating the Lightning, Toronto is still seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs are two points ahead of Carolina, New Jersey and the New York Rangers, who are locked in a three-way tie for seventh place.
After beating Tampa on Wednesday, Toronto will try to win consecutive games for the first since a three-game winning streak from Feb. 28-March 6.
Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin scored for the Maple Leafs in a 6 1/2 minute span early in the second period, as Toronto took down Tampa Bay at Air Canada Centre.
Joffrey Lupul added a first-period tally and Nazem Kadri recorded a career- best three assists for the Maple Leafs.
"He was always good defensively," Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle said of Kadri. "What happens in your transition from junior to pro hockey, it's the number of times that you expose yourself to the high-risk, high reward and where you do and when you do it on the ice."
James Reimer stopped 26 shots in the triumph, the first win for the Leafs since beating Ottawa on March 6.
The Sabres, meanwhile, were able to pick up an impressive win over the first- place Montreal Canadiens in their last game, but they also lost their top scorer to an injury in the process.
Steve Ott netted a pair of goals, including the game-winner 2:16 into overtime to help Buffalo earn a 3-2 win against the Northeast-leading Habs. However, Thomas Vanek also left the contest after getting hit with a slap shot from the stick of teammate Christian Ehrhoff.
The Austrian winger didn't return after getting hit with Ehrhoff's shot in the second period. Vanek, who leads Buffalo in both goals (14) and points (31) this season, did not participate in Thursday's morning skate and is not expected to play against the Maple Leafs.
Tyler Ennis scored the other goal and Jhonas Enroth turned in a solid 32-save performance to help the last-place Sabres beat the Canadiens. Ville Leino also contributed a pair of assists to the victory.
"It was a huge game for us, we needed this," said Ott, who recorded his first two- goal game since Dec. 29, 2009. "We finally found a way to close out games, and that's probably one of the reasons why we've struggled all season."
Toronto has won two of three meetings against the Sabres this season, including a 4-3 overtime victory in Buffalo on Jan. 29. That win came after Matt Frattin scored with 1.5 seconds left in OT, ending Toronto's three-game road losing streak in this series.
Buffalo is 5-6-2 as the host this season, while Toronto has a strong 9-6-0 road record.