Preview: Maple Leafs at Sabres
The Toronto Maple Leafs have responded well to a change of coaches, rattling off three straight victories under Sheldon Keefe. After erupting for a season-high output in a 6-0 drubbing of Detroit, the Maple Leafs look to close out a six-game road trip on a high note when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Friday in the front end of a home-and-home.
Keefe replaced Mike Babcock after Toronto dropped six in a row (0-5-1) and joined Pat Quinn (1998-99) as the only coaches in franchise history to start their careers 3-0-0. "It's better than the alternative," Keefe said. "We feel good about how things have gone. The players have responded beautifully, they've played extremely well and certainly deserve all the credit here." The Sabres are veering in the opposite direction, dropping 11 of 13 (2-8-3) following a hot start to the season. "I don’t know what it is, but we’re finding a way to not close out games," Buffalo forward Jimmy Vesey said after Wednesday's 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary. "Maybe things are snowballing just the way it’s gone."
TV: 4 p.m. ET, TSN4 (Toronto), MSG-Buffalo
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (12-10-4): Defenseman Tyson Barrie, acquired in the offseason from Colorado, had been a major disappointment at the offensive end by failing to score in his first 23 games. The change behind the bench has coincided with a revival by Barrie, who has scored in each of the last three games to run his point streak to five. "That’s a good feeling, for sure," Barrie said after becoming the first Toronto defenseman to score in three consecutive road games. "I feel like I'm in a good spot right now."
ABOUT THE SABRES (11-10-4): Rookie Victor Olofsson has collected points in five straight games and nine of 10 after scoring a third-period goal that briefly gave Buffalo the lead against Calgary. Captain Jack Eichel picked up the primary assist on the tally, giving him six goals and as many assists during a seven-game point streak. Eichel has torched the Maple Leafs since he was taken with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, registering 10 goals and 16 points in 13 matchups, including four tallies last season.
1. Maple Leafs backup G Michael Hutchinson, who is 0-4-1 with 23 goals allowed, will start Friday's game.
2. Buffalo's power play is 1-for-33 over the past 12 games.
3. Maple Leafs F Alexander Kerfoot will serve the second of his two-game suspension Friday.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 3