|Leafs goalie James Reimer watches as the puck squeaks through and crosses the goal line in a tough loss to the Flyers on Thursday. (QMI Agency/Craig Robertson)
TORONTO - The Maple Leafs saved their energy on Friday, cancelling their on-ice practice to talk about the importance of Saturday's game against the Buffalo Sabres.
After an early morning team gathering following a crippling regulation loss to Philadelphia, coach Ron Wilson held a team meeting and then dismissed his players from the club’s practice rink. Toronto trails eighth-place Buffalo and the New York Rangers by six points with 14 games to play, while the Carolina Hurricanes are four points ahead of them in ninth.
“Right now, there’s nothing more important than tomorrow,” Wilson said. “Each guy has to think about what he can bring. If he doesn’t have his ‘A’ game, what (else) he can do, block a shot or take a hit to make a play.
“We don’t want to dwell on last night. Emotional and mental fatigue can set in and that can affect your legs. If we stayed out out on the ice today, we’d only be there 20 or 25 minutes and I don’t know if that would be a benefit. We’ll save our energy and the same thing goes for Monday night (another home game against Tampa Bay).”
Winger Fredrik Sjostrom will be scratched after suffering an upper body injury in the Flyer game. Jay Rosehill, the lone sub not used on Thursday will step back in against the Sabres.
The Sabres are 4-1-1 on their season-long road trip with only the bus ride to Toronto remaining. Goalie Ryan Miller is as hot as ever, though the Leafs did win in Buffalo on Feb. 16, a rare 2-1 decision at HSBC Arena.
“Now we have to get a gorilla off our back at home,” Wilson said of Buffalo’s 5-1-1 mastery the past few years. “They’ll be ready for us. No. 1, they’re thinking ‘let’s try and bury this team and have one less to worry about’.”
James Reimer gets the start in goal again for the Leafs, his 25th start. Defenceman Keith Aulie, the only Leaf player to speak on Friday, said the team had to resist temptation to do too much on Saturday, especially if they fall behind. The Leafs have given up the first goal in their past five starts.
“We have to stay within our game plan,” Aulie said. “We have to re-group, re-charge and be ready for tomorrow. We finally cracked ‘em in Buffalo, and now we’re hoping to beat them on home ice.”