TORONTO (LGS) — The high-scoring Buffalo Sabres will look to build on what they accomplished Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they travel to the Air Canada Centre for a 7 p.m. Saturday face-off (MSG-TV/WGR-AM).
The Sabres (43-16-5) have been dominating their opponents recently, tallying five or more goals in each of the previous five games, including Tuesday’s 6-1 victory over the Maple Leafs and Friday night’s 8-5 home win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Friday night saw newly acquired forward Dainius Zubrus made his debut for the Sabres, without scoring a point. He finished with a plus-2 rating, and won 63 percent of his face-offs.
“I didn’t realize how fast this game can be,” said Zubrus, who played on a line with Michael Ryan and Adam Mair. “I talked to the coach before and he said we play at a high pace. They jump and they go to score goals. I think now I’ll know a little bit more what to expect.”
Thomas Vanek assumed the team lead in goals scored with the eventual game winner and an empty-net goal, while Derek Roy scored a goal and three assists for a career-high four points on the night.
Ryan scored his first two NHL goals of his career playing in his eighth game, including one short-handed on a pass from Jochen Hecht.
Drew Stafford, Teppo Numminen, and Dmitri Kalinin also found the back of the net for Buffalo, who improved to 9-0-1 in their last 10 home games.
Ryan Miller made 27 saves for his 31st victory, and is 2-0 since Tuesday’s trade deadline saw backup Martin Biron dealt to Philadelphia.
Buffalo took over the points lead with 91, one more than the idle Nashville Predators. They also lead the NHL in goals scored this season, with 248 through 64 games.
“This team tries to score goals with five guys,” Zubrus said following Friday’s game. “It was a lot of fun.”
Tough-guy enforcer Andrew Peters became the latest Sabre forward injured, suffering an “upper-body injury.” He is listed as day-to-day.
The Sabres did receive some good news on the injury front recently, though, as concussed co-captain Chris Drury and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek both skated Thursday and Friday. Drury is hoping to return Wednesday when the Sabres host the Colorado Avalanche in HSBC Arena. There is no word on Spacek’s or any of the countless others’ return.
Toronto (31-25-9) will also be coming off of a victory, having done the Sabres a favor by defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in a shootout Friday night.
However, in the process of winning, they lost one of their star defensemen to a vicious hit of their own.
In a similar type play that injured Drury in Buffalo, Tomas Kaberle was blind-sided by Devils forward Cam Janssen, and was removed from the ice on a stretcher in the second period.
Janssen was not penalized on the play.
“Absolutely no place for it in this game, and that’s it,” Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said of the play.
Lost in the hype of the hit, the win helped the Maple Leafs keep pace with eighth-place Carolina, who defeated Pittsburgh Friday. Toronto is still two points behind the Hurricanes, but has played two fewer games.
Kaberle was aware in the locker room, according to a Maple Leafs spokesman, but was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center for further observations.
Carlo Colaiacovo, Nik Antropov, and Matt Stajan scored the regulation goals for Toronto, while Jeff O’Neill scored the decisive shootout goal.
Andrew Raycroft, who surrendered four goals against Buffalo Tuesday before being pulled to start the third period, made 22 saves and stopped Sergei Brylin in the shootout to earn the victory.
New Jersey is now four points behind Buffalo in the Eastern Conference points-race, though the Sabres have played one fewer game than the Devils.
The Sabres hold the edge this season 3-2 over Toronto, after their convincing win Tuesday.
Miller will likely get the start for Buffalo, though it is possible recently acquired backup Ty Conklin could see his first game action with the Sabres.
After Raycroft’s last performance against Buffalo, it is also uncertain whether he will start Saturday, or if backup Jean-Sebastian Aubin will be between the pipes.
Fun Fact of the Game:
The Sabres are 6-1-2 in their last 9 bus trips to the Air Canada Centre. Their one regulation loss, however, was a 7-0 beating they took April 1, 2006. Buffalo rebounded two days later for a 3-2 shootout victory back in Toronto again.