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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, December 18th (All times eastern)

Toronto Maple Leafs (12-15-7) at Buffalo Sabres (20-10-2), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Sabres will try to rebound from a shutout loss when they welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs for tonight's Northeast Division clash at HSBC Arena.

The Sabres, who are first in the Northeast with 42 points, had a four-game winning streak halted in Ottawa on Wednesday and also failed in their attempt to post a perfect record on a three-game road trip. It marked the fourth time this year that Buffalo had been blanked and the third time in the Sabres' last 12 outings.

Despite being shut out on a frequent basis over the last few weeks, Buffalo has still recorded victories in eight of its last 11 games and is four points ahead of Boston for the division lead.

Brian Elliott posted his second shutout of the season with 22 saves to lead the Senators to Wednesday's 2-0 victory over the Sabres at Scotiabank Place.

Ryan Miller stopped 26-of-28 shots in the loss for Buffalo and is expected to get his fourth straight start tonight. Miller is 19-7-0 with a 2.22 goals- against average in his career against Toronto and shut out the Maple Leafs in Toronto on November 30.

Sabres centerman Paul Gaustad is expected to return tonight after missing the last 10 games with a knee injury, but physical forward Patrick Kaleta is questionable for tonight after suffering a hit to the head by Ottawa's Jarkko Ruutu.

Tonight marks the first of back-to-back games on home ice for the Sabres, who will also host Pittsburgh on Saturday. Buffalo is 11-5-2 at HSBC this season and has won its last two on home ice.

Buffalo has won seven straight and eight of its last nine meetings with the Maple Leafs and is 2-0 against Toronto this season. The Sabres have also taken three in a row and six of the last nine clashes in western New York.

The Maple Leafs also come into this evening off of a loss after they were doubled up by visiting Phoenix, 6-3, on Wednesday. Petr Prucha scored twice to help the Coyotes breeze to the victory at Air Canada Centre.

"Every five or six games you have a letdown and that's what we did over the first 30 minutes," said Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

Phil Kessel, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jamal Mayers got the goals for the Maple Leafs, who were aiming to win three straight for the first time this season.

Kessel has registered a goal in three straight games and has 13 tallies on the season. The young winger has 21 points in 22 games during his first season with the Leafs.

Vesa Toskala allowed five goals on 28 shots as Toronto lost for the first time in five games at home. The Leafs had won four of five overall.

Toskala will get the start tonight, but rookie netminder Jonas Gustavsson will return to the bench for Toronto after sitting out the last few weeks following a heart ablation procedure. Gustavsson, who is 6-5-5 with a 3.14 GAA this year, has not played since December 1, but is expected to serve as the backup tonight and will likely get the start in Saturday's home test against Boston.

Toronto is 6-7-4 as the visiting club this year and will try to halt a two- game road losing streak tonight.

12/18 10:52:48 ET


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