MacArthur, Leafs look to alter history

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:54 PM ET

TORONTO - If this column ends up on the bulletin board inside the Buffalo Sabres dressing room because former teammate Clarke MacArthur claims his Maple Leafs are “going to win” at HSBC Arena Friday, please keep a few thing in perspective.

In no way is Clarke MacArthur attempting to slag the Sabres organization, one he fondly recalls selected him 74th overall in the 2003 entry draft, then provided him with the stage to break into the National Hockey League.

Nor is he attempting to make some bold, headline-grabbing prediction of certain victory as if he was Joe Namath prior to Super Bowl III or Mark Messier before Game 6 of the 1994 playoff series between his New York Rangers and the rival New Jersey Devils.

Neither of those serve as motivation for MacArthur.

History does.

Specifically, the history that documents a countless number of Maple Leaf teams fumbling, bumbling and stumbling time after time when they’d travel down the QEW to Buffalo, a journey which, on too many instances in the past, was about as miserable as walking the plank off a pirate ship.

This is the type of history Clarke MacArthur wants to spit in the face of.

This is the type of history Clarke MacArthur wants to change.

Starting Friday.

“We’re going to win it,” MacArthur said Wednesday of Friday’s impending battle against his ex-teammates. “We’ve got to win it. At some point, things have to change for us there.”

Unaware of just how deep the Maple Leafs mediocrity has run in Buffalo since the Sabres first entered the league in 1970-71, MacArthur was informed that Toronto teams pretty much have lost two out of every three games they have played there, either at the since-demolished Memorial Auditorium or the HSBC Arena, the rink the Sabres now call home.

“Really? That really peeves me off,” he said.

For the record, the Leafs all-time regular-season mark in the Queen City is an ugly 27-54-6-2, not to mention the 0-2 record they have at the HSBC Arena in post-season play.

Under coach Ron Wilson, the Leafs are 1-4-1 in Buffalo. But that is a bit misleading.

Back on Jan. 8, for example, the Leafs peppered Ryan Miller with 50 shots only to see the Vezina Trophy winner make a career-high 48 saves en route to a 3-2 victory over Toronto. MacArthur played 10:16 for the Sabres in that contest, finishing minus-1 with two shots on goal.

“It’s not like we would blow them out during my Sabre days when they would come into Buffalo,” MacArthur said. “I remember there being a lot of very tight games.

“It’s not like we would sit around the dressing room in Buffalo saying: ‘Oh, look, the Leafs are coming to town. This should be easy.’ Not at all. They always were tough games.”

The Leafs finally snapped Buffalo’s 10-game winning streak against them with a 4-2 win at the Air Canada Centre on April 1. But the Sabres rebounded to start yet another one thanks to a 3-2 shootout victory on Nov. 6 at the ACC, a game that featured goalie Jhonas Enroth recording his first NHL win and Jochen Hecht tying the game to force overtime with just 14 seconds remaining in regulation.

Miller’s status for Friday’s game remains up in the air.

While he did not dress for Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he did face shots for a third consecutive day. Coach Lindy Ruff has said Miller is close to returning from a groin injury, meaning there is a realistic chance he’ll either play against the Leafs on Friday or Saturday in Montreal.

“I’m not sure if Ryan Miller is playing,” Wilson said after Tuesday’s practice, “but we’ve already lost to them once this year and he didn’t play in that one.”

Miller or no Miller, MacArthur knows what the Leafs have to do.

“We need to get a win in Buffalo over a division rival,” he said.

And, in the process, spit in the face of history.


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