They won’t have to wait long to get another crack at the Sabres.
The Maple Leafs, though, will need to reverse some pretty convincing recent history to avoid a ninth straight loss to Buffalo on Monday night at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto (13-16-7) finished 10 points behind Buffalo in the Northeast Division last season, and that’s the same amount of points it allowed the Sabres to grab during their final five head-to-head meetings.
The Maple Leafs’ struggles against the Sabres have continued in 2009-10. Toronto lost 3-2 in overtime at HSBC Arena on Oct. 30, then fell 3-0 when the series moved to Canada - Buffalo’s seventh straight win at Air Canada Centre - on Nov. 30.
Back in Buffalo on Friday, the Sabres (21-10-3) again got the best of the Leafs, and as usual, Ryan Miller(notes) led the way. The NHL’s hottest goaltender made 40 stops in the 5-2 win, stretching Buffalo’s streak over Toronto to eight games.
Miller, who leads the league with a 1.89 goals-against average, has started all eight, posting a 1.25 GAA and a .961 save percentage.
Vesa Toskala(notes), meanwhile, made his seventh straight start for Toronto but didn’t last long. He allowed four goals on 10 shots before being removed for Jonas Gustavsson(notes), making his first appearance since undergoing a heart procedure in early December.
“When you’re not getting any saves, everybody gets shaky and you suffer breakdowns because you start running around trying to do too much,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of Toskala. “They scored four goals on six shots and it’s hard to play if you’re not sure you’re going to get a save.”
Gustavsson allowed one goal on 17 shots the rest of the way and parlayed that solid play into a victory Saturday. The rookie stopped all 25 shots Boston threw at him in a 2-0 win, improving to 4-1-0 with a 2.31 GAA in his last six games and ending Toronto’s seven-game skid against the Bruins.
“It was, maybe not what I expected, but you have to take it for what it is and go on and try to work hard when you get a chance to be on the ice,” said Gustavsson, who’s allowed three goals apiece in two starts against Buffalo. “There’s not much else you can do.”
The Sabres were looking for their sixth win in seven games Saturday when Pittsburgh visited, but they came up short in a shootout. Backup Patrick Lalime(notes) was solid in place of Miller, but the Sabres went 0 for 8 on the power play and fell 2-1 to the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Vanek, a 40-goal scorer last season who has just 10 in 31 games, didn’t play Saturday. The Austrian winger has an abdominal injury that isn’t expected to be serious, but it could keep him out Monday and perhaps longer.
No Leafs player has more than one goal against Buffalo during their eight-game slide.