Key Leafs rest up for Sabres Part 2
Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
|The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate their second goal against the Buffalo Sabres during first period NHL hockey action at the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto on January 10, 2012. (Ernest Doroszuk /QMI AGENCY)
TORONTO - A couple of key players were missing from practice on Wednesday as the Maple Leafs and Sabres took a two-day hiatus between their home-and-home series.
Tim Connolly, the centre on Toronto’s first line, took a “maintenance day” said club officials after coach Ron Wilson chose not to speak to media after the workout at the MasterCard Centre.
In Buffalo, sniper Thomas Vanek was battling a case of food poisoning as well as likely effects froma solid Dion Phaneuf hit that that took him out of Tuesday’s 2-0 loss. The rematch is Friday at first Niagara Center, where the Leafs will try for a rare sweep of their division rivals.
The Leafs are on a 5-0 run at home, the most since March of 2010.
“We’ve talked amongst ourselves a lot about bearing down in this stretch,” defenceman Luke Schenn said. “It’s no fun playing at home when you are losing. Things can be pretty miserable here. It’s really tight in the standings now and it’s huge to pick up points. Right now the ACC is rocking and fans are behind us.”
Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul worked out alone Wednesday in their familiar white sweaters, with no one deputized to take Connolly’s place, a sign that it should be just a temporary absence. Connolly had replaced Tyler Bozak a couple of weeks ago before the latter’s shoulder injury. Bozak continues to work out by himself.
Tuesday marked just the sixth time this year that Kessel and Lupul were both held off the sheet in the same game.
“Back to the drawing board,” joked Lupul.
Buffalo faces the possibility of falling 10 points behind Toronto, the kind of deficit the Leafs usually face when trying to recover from sluggish first halves when January begins.
“We’re not looking in the rear view mirror right now to see who is behind us,” Schenn said. “We’re focused on what’s ahead of us.”