Buffalo Sabres PreGame Skate #20: Toronto Maple Leafs


Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Sabres (4-15-1) prepare to start the Ted Nolan 2.0 era of hockey in Buffalo – as the team gets set to play their first game in the post Darcy Regier era of hockey.  For many fans – this day is a long time in the making and well overdue.

For the Buffalo Sabres – the task now becomes changing the culture.  It is no longer just about a rebuild – its a culture change.  The first challenge for the Sabres is the Toronto Maple Leafs (11-6-1) – a team they have not faced yet this season.

The last time these two teams met – it was the preseason – and John Scott talked a big game to Phil Kessel and Kessel went Paul Bunyan.  This is Scott’s first chance to get back in the lineup after his hit on Boston’s Loui Ericksson that left him [Scott] suspended for seven games. The last thing on the Maple Leafs mind should be John Scott however.

It could be a very interesting night for the two teams – who will meet tonight and then continue the rivalry contest tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre.

Despite their woeful ways of the season – tonight could be one hell of a game for the Sabres – and a chance to go on their first two game winning streak of the season.  In their last thirteen games at home against the Maple Leafs – Buffalo is 11-1-1.  Buffalo has also not lost the first home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a home and home situation since the very meeting – on December 20th, 1970.

Good or bad – the Buffalo Sabres still seem to do well against the Toronto Maple Leafs – who they will play five times this season.  Last year the Sabres were 2-1-1 against the Leafs in a tale of two very different hockey cities as the Sabres coasted into the off season and the Leafs made the playoffs.  This is the 189th game all-time between Buffalo and Toronto; Buffalo leads the series with a 104-61-23 record.

Toronto skates into tonight’s game without some of their weapons – as Nazem Kadri will sit – suspended for his actions against the Minnesota Wild – actions that grabbed him a three game suspension.  The center position is still depleted with the long term injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland.  Mike Weber continues to sit for the Buffalo Sabres with an injured thumb.

Sabres fans could be in for a new brand of hockey – as Ted Nolan not only shuffled lines at practice yesterday – but also some positions, most notably Zemgus Girgensons to center.

Girgensons is happy with the tempo the new coach is bringing.

"“[Nolan] wants simple hockey but you have to play hard. He wants all the guys going 100 percent,” Girgensons told the Sabres website. “If you’re not going to do that, most likely you’re not even going to be out there. He wants the guys to compete, and I think that’s what we need in this team right now.”"

The biggest on ice challenge for the Buffalo Sabres new regime will be what will happen in their goaltender position – as Ryan Miller may be intriqued by what Pat Lafontaine has to offer the organization.  We will still see a change in the crease, as Jhonas Enroth will no doubt want to test the free agent market the next time around or ask for a trade to a team where he can be a number one.  No doubt we will see both goaltenders this weekend in this home and home series with the Maple Leafs.