O'Neill not in lineup

MIKE ZEISBERGER

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Is the O-Dog in coach Paul Maurice's dog house?

That was one of the big questions surrounding the Maple Leafs last night after the team announced Jeff O'Neill would not be in the lineup for the rematch against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre.

Asked if the move was simply a coach's decision, Maurice replied "Yes."

"I wasn't sure Kyle Wellwood could get through this game -- it being back to back," Maurice said. "He seemed to tire a bit in the latter stages (Friday night), so I wanted another centre man in there."

In order to do that, Maurice inserted centre John Pohl into the lineup, leaving O'Neill as the odd man out.

Wellwood is coming off sports hernia surgery in January and team officials want to be cautious with him, especially during back-to-back games.

O'Neill, meanwhile, is in the midst of a scoring funk. He has gone scoreless in 15 of his past 16 games, registering just two points in that span.

RICKY'S RECORD RE-VAIVED

A number of those seated in the Air Canada Centre press box last night politely offered their congratulations to former captain Rick Vaive, who was celebrating a milestone of sorts.

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Vaive scoring his 50th goal of the 1981-82 season. In the process, Vaive became the first Leaf to crack the half-century mark in goals for a single season

"I guess you could say it's one of the top highlights of my career," Vaive said.

"We didn't win a lot of games during my time as a Leaf, but I think it's safe to say I was pretty consistent through all those years."

Vaive hit the 50-goal barrier on two other occasions as a Leaf. Dave Andreychuk and Gary Leeman are the only other Leafs to have scored 50-plus goals in a season.

With 8:10 remaining in the second period last night, the Leafs paid tribute to Vaive, who received a standing ovation.

NO DOUBTING THOMAS

What a difference a season has made for Austrian-born BuffaloSabres forward Thomas Vanek.

Just one year ago, Vanek found himself a healthy scratch during the Sabres' three-round playoff run.

Perhaps motivated by his stint in civvies, Vanek entered last night's game leading the Sabres in goals (37) and leading the NHL in plus/minus (plus-41).

Asked about Vanek's inactivity in the post-season last year, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff replied: "It wasn't to prove a point. It was just a case of other guys playing better."


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