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Preview: It’s Monday, so we’re having the Sabres over

The hard-charging Sabres are in town again.

Buffalo Sabres v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Buffalo vs Toronto: Game #76

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Location: ACC

Broadcast/Streaming: TSN4, MSG-B

Opponent SBNation Site: Die by the Blade

Word is Leo Komarov thinks he’s fit to play, but the medical department likely will say, “Go sit down, Leo”, and that is the lineup question for the Leafs at forward. On defence we are back to “Carrick or Polak?” And this is likely to be a Carrick game. Reporters in the dozens say Carrick is out with the scratches at optional skate, so Polak it is. We can assume Andersen will start.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Mitch Marner
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Andreas Johnsson - Tomas Plekanec - Kasperi Kapanen

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen
Curtis McElhinney

Buffalo Sabres

From the last crushing loss they suffered.

Forward Lines

Scott Wilson - Ryan O’Reilly - Sam Reinhart
Zemgus Girgensons - Jack Eichel - Kyle Okposo
Benoit Pouliot - Evan Rodrigues - Nicholas Baptiste
Jordan Nolan - Johan Larsson - Jason Pominville

Defence Pairings

Rasmus Dahlin - Rasmus Ristolainen
Brendan Guhle - Casey Nelson
Josh Gorges - Victor Antipin

Goaltenders

Robin Lehner
Linus Ullmark


I don’t even hate the Sabres, let’s get that out of the way first. But this is their season:

They’ve beaten Toronto once this year, Boston three times and Tampa twice. All the Leafs need to do is not lose to this team again and we win the Atlantic.

This is how it went down: In 2003, the Sabres got Chris Drury in a trade. And then they got Danny Briere at the deadline. And that season ended pretty shitty, to be honest. They were last in the division, they had 72 points, and it looked like the decline they were on had gotten worse. Except their post deadline record was really good. They had something. And they climbed to the heights of glory in the 2006-2007 season with 113 points. They went to the conference finals. And then, in the summer, the GM took over.

Briere recently talked about all this on a radio show, and it was very interesting. He said that the team tried to play hardball, and they never negotiated with him in-season or even after, and they had claimed they hadn’t talked to Drury either. They were telling him fake news. They had talked contract with Drury, and Briere was pissed off, then Drury was pissed off, and they both walked.

A few days later, Thomas Vanek signed an offer sheet from the Oilers, and the Sabres matched it, not because they really thought Vanek was all that, but because they thought they couldn’t just keep losing players.

So here was their other choice: Negotiate like it’s an ordinary business deal with guys who just carried you deep in the playoffs not an episode of a Donald Trump TV show, sign both Drury and Briere, and laugh at the Oilers and take all those picks. Vanek, in the fullness of time, became Matt Moulson, Robin Lehner, David Legwand and Brendan Guhle. Guhle is likely their best prospect not named Mittlestadt.

In the alternate world where they acted more like their players were part of a team not adversaries to be beaten, they prospered with a boatload of Oilers draft picks and two top forwards who played well into their thirties.

But 10 million people watched the finale of The Apprentice in the spring of 2007, maybe Darcy Regier was one.

That world never existed, and the Sabres have skidded through all the sorts of badness you can achieve: intentional, cynical, accidental, inevitable and endless — until they’re now in a position where they can only hope for another lottery win to bring them a saviour named Rasmus.

The last-place Buffalo Sabres have scored two goals in their last four games.

Go, Leafs Go, you can win this one, but can we stop having the Sabres over for Monday dinner?

So we won’t see him tonight.