The Buffalo Sabres failed to score a goal for the third time in as many weeks last time out. Perhaps a game against a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has one of the worst defenses in the league can help rejuvenate their offense.
The Northeast Division-leading Sabres try to bounce back from their latest shutout loss and win their eighth straight game over the Maple Leafs as they meet Friday night at HSBC Arena.
Buffalo’s offense has been hit-or-miss over the last three weeks. The Sabres (20-10-2) have won eight of 12, averaging 3.8 goals in those victories but combining to score just once in those four defeats.
The offense was again nonexistent Wednesday against Ottawa. Buffalo matched a season low with 22 shots in a 2-0 loss, snapping a four-game winning streak.
Buffalo hopes to get the offense turned around against the Maple Leafs (12-15-7), who have allowed an Eastern Conference-worst 122 goals.
The Sabres have already taken advantage of Toronto’s shaky defense, scoring three goals in each of the first two meetings of the season. Buffalo has won seven straight over the Maple Leafs since a 2-1 loss on Dec. 12, 2008, outscoring them 27-8.
Thomas Vanek(notes), second on the Sabres with nine goals, has four goals and four assists during the winning streak over the Leafs, while Tim Connolly(notes)—second on the team with 23 points—has two goals and an assist in the two meetings this season.
Toronto is coming off another disappointing defensive showing, surrendering four second-period goals in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to Phoenix. It was the third time in seven games the Leafs allowed at least five goals.
The line of Mikhail Grabovski(notes), Jason Blake(notes) and Niklas Hagman(notes) was on the ice for three of the Coyotes’ goals in the second, but Toronto coach Ron Wilson didn’t believe it was entirely their fault.
“Their line ended being minus-3, but they didn’t get any help from the defensemen either,” Wilson said. “It was a giveaway-fest in the second period, we couldn’t find any loose pucks and we got pushed out of the way.
“A small part of the blame went with those guys, but our defense just wasn’t very good.”
Vesa Toskala(notes) made his sixth straight start in goal for Toronto on Wednesday with Jonas Gustavsson(notes) out after undergoing a heart procedure. Toskala, 4-2-0 with a 3.03 goals-against average since taking over in net, hasn’t made a start against the Sabres since the win last December.
Miller has started all seven games for Buffalo during its winning streak over the Leafs, posting a 1.14 GAA with two shutouts - including one Nov. 30. Miller, who leads the NHL with a 1.88 GAA, has 19 wins and four shutouts lifetime against Toronto, both career highs against any opponent.