Haunting times for Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

SUNRISE,Fla. -- Short of consulting a witch doctor or acquiring a voodoo doll of Lindy Ruff, former Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn tried everything in order to overcome The Curse of the Queen City.

He had his Maple Leafs bus down from Toronto on game day.

He flew them in a day early and had them practise there.

He changed hotels in the hopes of changing his team's luck.

Almost nothing worked.

Buffalo, it seemed, would remain a graveyard for the victory aspirations of his Maple Leafs.

Since the Sabres first entered the NHL in 1970, they have owned the Leafs on Buffalo ice, going 47-19-6-1 including 15-4-3 at the 10-year-old HSBCArena.

Of all those losses, Quinn was most haunted by the humiliating 8-1 pasting his team absorbed on Jan. 1, 2000.To this day he still refers to it as "The New Year's Day Massacre."

Now we fast forward to tonight, when the Leafs make their first visit of the 2006-07 season to Buffalo to take on the high-flying Sabres.

NEW STYLE

The Leafs have a new coach in Paul Maurice, a new starting netminder inAndrew Raycroft and a new youthful, up-tempo style of play.

Even with all that, most of the so-called experts are predicting the same old result -- another Leafs defeat. Highlights at 11 on Eyewitness News.

So why should fans expect anything different this time around?

"We haven't come in from Florida before so maybe that will work out for our benefit," defenceman Bryan McCabe said.

Maurice, fully aware of the woes the Toronto franchise has endured in Buffalo, gave his team the day off here in south Florida yesterday, hoping they might regroup from a disheartening 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers Thursday. The team flew to Buffalo last night.

Maurice knows every team has an arena that proves to be a house of horrors. The key, he says, is overcoming it.

"Everybody has their (nemesis) team," Maurice said. "(Buffalo) is ours and we are just going to have to find a way to do it.

"Atlanta went about 2 years before they beat us in Carolina. Then they did. And then they did it for a while. I think last year they beat Carolina 9-0.

"(The Sabres) are a very offensively gifted team. It's going to be quite a challenge our first time in with our schedule and our lineup."

That challenge will be even more difficult if the Leafs continue to slolwy come out of the gate . They have allowed the opening goal in four of the past five games and were outshot 23-5 by the Panthers in a brutal first period.

A start like that against the powerful Sabres will be shinny suicide.

"Absolutely," McCabe said. "They are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, especially in that building. We haven't had a lot of success there."

No kidding.


Videos

Photos