Preview: Sabres at Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs snapped a season-high three-game winless skid in style, overcoming an early three-goal deficit with six unanswered tallies to best an Original Six rival. The Maple Leafs bid to ride that momentum against another Atlantic Division adversary on Monday when they host the Buffalo Sabres in the third contest of their four-game homestand.
“I think that first period intermission we just wanted to come in and just take a deep breath, get our composure back and just go to work,” said Auston Matthews, who scored and set up a goal in Toronto’s 6-3 triumph over Montreal on Saturday to boost his point total to 15 (nine goals, six assists) in his last 13 games. The 21-year-old capped a two-goal performance with three seconds remaining in overtime in the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 win over the Sabres on Dec. 4. Sam Reinhart scored and set up a goal in that contest and registered his third career hat trick in Saturday’s 5-2 victory against Washington to lift his point total to six (four goals, two assists) in his last five games. “I just like the urgency and the desperation in our game right now,” said Buffalo coach Phil Housley, whose team snapped a four-game skid (0-3-1) on Saturday and resides six points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Buffalo, TVA, TSN4 (Toronto)
ABOUT THE SABRES (29-24-8): Captain Jack Eichel tallied twice in the first encounter with Toronto and had two of his club-best 47 assists against the Capitals to boost his team-leading point total 66 – two more than his previous career high set last season. “I thought we’ve done a good job the last two games for sure,” the 22-year-old Eichel told reporters. “I thought we’ve defended when we need to, we’ve worked hard, we played pretty desperate.” Jeff Skinner, who leads the team with 36 goals, survived a scare after injuring his ankle and reportedly was making jokes during the second intermission before returning to Saturday’s game to start the third period.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (37-20-4): Mitch Marner recorded his 15th multi-assist and 22nd multi-point performance on Saturday by setting up both of Zach Hyman’s third-period goals to boost his team-leading totals in assists (50) and points (71). The 21-year-old’s point total surpassed his previous high of 69, set in 2017-18. Hyman, who boasts three goals in his last three games, has posted 17 of his 27 points on home ice this season.
1. Buffalo D Rasmus Ristolainen snapped a six-game point drought with an assist on Saturday and heads into the tilt with Toronto, against which he set up two goals in the first meeting.
2. Maple Leafs F Patrick Marleau, who scored in the first matchup with the Sabres, has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in February.
3. Buffalo G Carter Hutton has turned aside 116 of his last 124 shots, but only has a 1-2-1 record to show for it.