Sabres at Maple Leafs
Following a 2-1 home loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday that saw Buffalo fall to 3-7-0 in its last 10 games, the Sabres fired Lindy Ruff, who had been the team’s head coach since 1997. Ron Rolston, who guided Rochester of the American Hockey League, will serve as interim coach on Thursday when Buffalo visits the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third of four matchups this season between the Northeast Division rivals. The Sabres and Maple Leafs split the first two games this season, with Buffalo winning 2-1 at Toronto on Jan. 21 and the Maple Leafs claiming a 4-3 road triumph in overtime eight days later. Sabres captain Jason Pominville, who recorded his team's lone tally against Winnipeg, has two goals and an assist in the two games against Toronto.
The Maple Leafs aren’t quite sure what to make of their goaltending situation after Ben Scrivens followed back-to-back shutout performances by allowing four goals on 13 shots in a 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. James Reimer, who is out with a strained left MCL, is scheduled to resume light workouts this week but is not near a return. Jussi Rynnas relieved Scrivens on Tuesday for his third career NHL appearance. Scrivens made 71 saves in his consecutive shutouts, which were the first two of his career.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Buffalo, Sportsnet Ontario
ABOUT THE SABRES (6-10-1): Ryan Miller has started seven straight games and 15 of 17 on the season, but has a 3.00 goals-against average in nine starts this month. Thomas Vanek still leads the team with 25 points, but has been held off the scoresheet in four of his last five games. Defenseman Jordan Leopold was a healthy scratch on Tuesday. Leopold has no points in his last four games and is minus-7 this season, but leads the team with 31 blocked shots. Steve Ott leads the club with 70 hits and 38 penalty minutes, and has seven points.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (10-7-0): James van Riemsdyk leads the team with nine goals and has eight points in his last eight games. Nazem Kadri has a team-leading 14 points - and five in the last five games - while Phil Kessel has a club-best 10 assists. Leo Komarov leads the team in hits with 64. Toronto’s penalty-killing units have allowed just two goals on the last 27 opportunities. The Maple Leafs have scored with the man advantage in four of their last seven games, going 5-for-24 in that span.
1. Ruff was the longest-tenured active NHL coach until he was fired. Gregg Popovich of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs is the only active coach among the North American major sports who has been with the same team longer than Ruff.
2. Toronto won its last two home games after starting the season 1-4-0 at the Air Canada Centre.
3. Matt Frattin scored the overtime winner against Buffalo earlier this season and has seven goals in 10 games. The Maple Leafs forward is still at least a week away from returning to the lineup after a minor procedure on his knee was successful.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 3