Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs

7:30PM - Air Canada Centre

TV: TSN4 - RADIO: TSN 1050

SBN: Die by da Blade

Head to Head

Teams Buffalo Toronto
Record 26-31-9 21-33-10
Conference 15th in East 16th in East
League 26th 30th
Goals +/- 156/178 = -22 152/190 = -38
Top Scorer Jack Eichel (19) Leo Komarov (18)
Top Points Ryan O'Reilly (49) Leo Komarov (35)
Goalie Chad Johnson .917/2.45 Garret Sparks .916/2.42
Mascot Sabretooth Carlton


It's fascinating to ponder the wealth of forwards Babcock can play with in the post-trade-deadline Leafs lineup. He's got so much room to move that he sent Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic back down to the Marlies, replacing them with new left-winger Milan Michalek and back-from-injury Brad Boyes. Babcock showed that despite the Leafs' record, he can afford to teach the rookies in the right way. (Check out our post-game interview with Kapanen here.)

Babcock's message to the Toronto Sun reinforced the notion that nowadays, rookies have to work hard to break the lineup, no matter who's currently in it: "They have to figure out how to be consistent every day and work hard and how to compete at a high level and be involved in the game. My message would be to them is just keep growing your game. In the end, we’re going to have a real good team with real good players. You have to make sure you grow your game enough to be a part of it."

Tonight, it'll be interesting to see whether the veteran presence of Michalek adds just as much to the lineup as Brooks Laich has. Katya wrote an introduction to Michalek, and gives us a few good questions to focus upon while we watch the game:

How much of his poor results were the changing linemates and freak injuries? Is Michalek worn out, used up and useless, or does he need the right system, the right linemates and a team that hasn't built up a historical set of expectations he can't meet? Does he, in other words, just need to be put into a position to succeed.Is he next year's Grabner? A guy who can show what he can do and then the market will decide? Or is he a useful veteran professional who can play with talented younger players and be a positive influence like Brooks Laich. Why not both? Watch him as the season winds down and decide what you think he can be as a Leaf.

How are those kids doing, anyway?

As far as the Sabres go, Die by the Blade asked a few good questions in their game preview. I think we can answer question #2, "How will the kids play for Toronto?" Nikita Soshnikov will play with unsustainable energy (heh heh). Now that William Nylander is over his initial bout of shyness, he'll show off the hands that got him here. And we hope that Zach Hyman can...bust open the seal on his very first NHL goal. Or something.

[Katya adds:]

Before we take a quick look at the past two games for the rookie forwards, let's refresh our memories: Soshnikov played with Holland and Grabner in the Wild game and then moved back to Kadri's line for the Sens game, switching with Leipsic. Kapanen played both games with Nylander and Hyman.

In the Wild game, Soshnikov's line had good shot differentials, but all the shots were coming from the defencemen. This is a common theme in Leaf games, where the D shoot a lot.

[Thanks, Katya!]

Leafs Lines

Nikita Soshnikov - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Michael Grabner - William Nylander - Zach Hyman
Milan Michalek - Peter Holland - Brad Boyes
Colin Greening - Ben Smith - Brooks Laich

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner - Frank Corrado
Martin Marincin - Connor Carrick

Garret Sparks
Jonathan Bernier

Buffalo Lines

Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart
Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers - Cal O'Reilly - Zemgus Girgensons
Daniel Catenacci - David Legwand - Matt Moulson

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian
Carlo Colaiacovo - Mark Pysyk

Chad Johnson
Robin Lehner