Sabres concern Leafs

Andrew Raycroft laughs during Leafs practice on Friday. (Sun Media/Dave Abel)

Andrew Raycroft laughs during Leafs practice on Friday. (Sun Media/Dave Abel)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Everything is cheaper in Buffalo for Canadians these days, except NHL points.

The Maple Leafs, bitter about the one or two that got away Saturday night, tonight must face their cross-border rivals who have robbed them on a regular basis and hurt their playoff bank account in the process.

The Sabres have won two in a row after a sputtering start and were 2-for-7 on the power play in a 7-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

That bodes ill for the Leafs, who have a terrible record of 22-51-6 in regular season and playoff games across the Peace Bridge and are stumbling into penalties against teams with superior foot speed.

"They've got their game back," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said in reference to the Sabres. "I like 50% of our game (the offence), but I don't like going in there playing as loose as we are."

In an eventful week at home, the Leafs lost 7-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes, beat the New York Islanders 8-1 and then completely ignored their own advice to stay away from penalties on Saturday against the explosive Pittsburgh Penguins, taking four minors in the third period in a 6-4 loss.

"When you have to kill penalties in the third period, you don't have a lot of jump left," Maurice said.

Among the handful of players summoned to the ice at Lakeshore Lions Arena yesterday were fourth-liners Bates Battaglia, Kris Newbury and Wade Belak. Sometimes the fourth line is the only one worth watching for the Leafs. However, the group comprising the unit has been awful the past three games.

Battaglia was taken out of the mix after showing no jump in the Carolina game and Belak was in the box when the Isles scored their only goal. In a span of just 22 seconds on Saturday, Newbury lost a draw to Adam Hall that led to a goal, then lost his man on Maxime Talbot's tying goal.

Maurice stapled Newbury and Belak to the bench the rest of the night, used Chad Kilger sparingly and said he would be "moving guys around" tonight, though not likely calling up any Marlies.

"That's probably one of the worst outings I've ever had, even with limited ice time," Newbury said. "I'm out there to win draws in my zone and I let my man beat me out of the corner. I'm not doing my job. I'm pretty disappointed."

Maurice has the option of reinstating Battaglia tonight, but would prefer Alexei Ponikarovsky. That is remote with the latter still practising in a track suit yesterday as he recovers from a twisted ankle.

"We just have to stay out of the box," Belak said. "Buffalo has a lot of small guys such as (Maxim) Afinogenov that we have to contain, but we have to get in their way."


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