These Sabres are sharp

KEN FIDLIN and LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

The Leafs will have their hands full against the Sabres, who are 15-1-1 in their last 17 and are gunning to tie their own NHL record of nine straight road wins set in 1983-84.

"Since we last saw them they've been the hottest team in the league," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "They have good speed and with that quickness, they're playing a very assertive checking style.

"They're showing a lot of discipline in their defensive play and they're getting a lot of rewards from that."

The Leafs on the other hand have been struggling offensively but have managed to parlay some reasonable defence and good goaltending into three straight one-goal wins

"Right now we're getting chances but not finishing strongly," Quinn said. "A game like (Pittsburgh) where we were outchanced, a lot of it on the power play, you need good goaltending. Since we're not putting it in the other net, then we've got to keep it out of ours. The best part of that is our goaltending."

In their only meeting, in Buffalo seven weeks ago, the Sabres beat the Leafs 5-2.

VANEK WILL BE ONE TO WATCH

With Alex Steen hurt, tonight's rookie spotlight will belong to Buffalo Sabre Tomas Vanek. The Austrian-born winger is in the the top five rookie scorers in the National Hockey League, with 25 points and more than 100 shots on goal. He has scored 40 goals in both the USHL and AHL. After getting blanked in his first 14 NHL games, Vanek now has 10 goals.

"I don't know what it is," Vanek told The Buffalo News this week. "But I've always been a slow starter.

"After Christmas, I always pick it up a little bit. It's obviously a lot different from the AHL."

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, who saw a lot of Vanek in Rochester last year while the NHL was on hiatus, compares the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Vanek to Dave Andreychuk.

APRIL SHOWERS

The Sabres will have a lot to say about where the Leafs end up in the division and the conference.

From April 1 forward, the Leafs play the Sabres three times among their final nine games, including the Maple Leafs' last home contest on April 16.


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