Sabres motivated, too

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET

How do you keep a buffalo penned in your backyard?

The Maple Leafs haven’t done a good job of that at the Air Canada Centre, where the Buffalo Sabres are 7-1-1 since February of 2008 and 33-37-12-4 since the Western New Yorkers first began visiting during the French Connection years. But Toronto coach Ron Wilson doesn’t think that will be the Sabres’ greatest motivation on Saturday, nor the chance to complete a six-game road trip with a tidy slate of 4-1-1.

“No. 1, they’ll be thinking: ‘Let’s try and bury this team and have one less to worry about’,” Wilson said of the Eastern Conference standings. “They’ll be ready for us. They’ve been successful in Toronto a lot.”

A win in regulation and the Sabres are eight points up on the Leafs, with a game in hand and Toronto down to 13 dates. Coach Lindy Ruff will also have taken another step back to the playoffs and confounded his critics one more time, just when they thought his 14th season with the Sabres would surely be his last. Toronto hoped to make big strides while the Sabres were on the road, but the opposite has happened the past week.

“You can usually tell about the character of your team by how you play on the road,” Ruff told reporters after beating Boston in overtime on Thursday. “The ground we’ve made up has been by going on the road and playing good hockey. We want to continue that. This trip isn’t over.”

Ten points out of the playoffs early in the new year, the Sabres made hay away from HSBC Arena. But the Leafs did beat them there, back on Feb. 16.

“Now we have to get a gorilla off our back at home,” Wilson said. “We did beat (Sabres goalie Ryan) Miller last time and the key is to go into the game believing and feeling good and being energized. That’s what we need — energy.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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