Sabres-Maple Leafs Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 21, 2011

ATLANTA - JANUARY 14: Goaltender Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on January 14, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ANDY LEFKOWITZ STATS Writer After two dreadful performances, the Buffalo Sabres would like to end their three-game road trip on a positive note before the Christmas break. The Sabres make their first trip of the season to Air Canada Centre to meet the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night in a matchup of clubs bitten by the injury bug. Buffalo defeated Toronto 5-4 on Friday but has since been outscored 12-4 in losses at Pittsburgh and Ottawa. Jordan Leopold scored on the power play in a 4-1 defeat to the Senators on Tuesday. "We'll try and put this away, go to Toronto and get it done," goaltender Ryan Miller told the Sabres' official website. Miller is 8-7-2 and has surrendered eight goals over the last two games. His 3.12 goals-against average is his highest since becoming a full-time starter in 2005. While Miller is 25-11-0 with a 2.33 GAA and four shutouts versus the Maple Leafs, he's allowed 11 goals while losing each of his last three starts in Toronto. Besides Miller's struggles, Buffalo's depth has been depleted with the losses of forwards Ville Leino (lower-body injury), Tyler Ennis (ankle) and Nathan Gerbe (concussion) among others. "We're trying to play a simple game. We're not in the position now where we can be too fancy. We've gotta establish the simple stuff, get some energy," Miller said. Thomas Vanek provided that in last week's win over Toronto with two goals and two assists for a season-high four points. Vanek leads Buffalo with 17 goals and is tied with Jason Pominville for the team lead with 35 points. Vanek has four goals and five assists in his last five games versus Toronto, and the Sabres will need his continued contributions as they try to break a logjam in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo (16-14-3) is tied for ninth in the East, one point behind Toronto (16-13-4) and Ottawa. The Maple Leafs will be without right wing Colby Armstrong, who is out indefinitely with a concussion, and center Philippe Dupuis (upper-body injury). To shore up the offense, the Leafs recalled forward Nazem Kadri from the minors Wednesday. Kadri had eight goals and 14 assists in 22 games with the Toronto Marlies, and was named the AHL's top player for November. Toronto has lost a season high-tying three in a row, falling 3-2 in a shootout to Los Angeles on Monday. Following this contest, the Maple Leafs travel to face the Islanders on Friday before the holiday break. "We're not looking past those two games and what's going to happen in January, what's going to happen in February," defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "We're confident in our group and we're going to turn this thing around." Toronto still has Phil Kessel, who remains among the league leaders with 19 goals and 39 points. Kessel had an assist last week against Buffalo, giving him two goals and three assists in a four-game point streak versus the Sabres.
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