Another day, another must-win game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Although, at this point, winning likely simply holds off the inevitable.
The Leafs will host the red-hot Buffalo Sabres tonight at the Air Canada Centre and will be attempting to pull within five points of eighth-place in the Eastern Conference. Last season's Vezina Trophy winner, Ryan Miller, will be starting in goal for the Sabres, attempting to improve on his 24-10-0 record against the Leafs, a team he has picked up 11 per cent of his career wins against.
"You fully expect a team that's going to put pucks on net, they're going to look for rebounds, they're going to look for anything they can," Miller said. "I don't expect it to be the kind of night where they're going to feel things out. They're going to try and push and put everything towards the net.
"It's going to be up to us as a team to kind of weather those situations but also make it frustrating for them. Just be patient."
The Leafs didn't skate at all today, continuing a trend of late without morning skates other than for the scratches. Brett Lebda was one of those, meaning Matt Lashoff will draw back in on the third defence pairing after coach Ron Wilson gave Lebda some playing time against his former Detroit Red Wings team on Saturday.
James Reimer will start in goal, trying to pick up his third win in a row against the Sabres, who are 11-3-3 in their past 17 games.
"We're going to keep working hard, keep fighting and hopefully if we work hard enough the NHL's going to give us a couple more weeks to play," Reimer said.
Buffalo could be without winger Mike Grier, who is a game-time decision with a knee injury, and will be missing defenceman Jordan Leopold, who broke a bone in his hand recently.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said he realizes the Leafs "will be desperate" but that he isn't overly concerned with ruining what's left of their chances.
According to sportsclubstats.com, a regulation loss will drop Toronto's chances of making the playoffs from 0.41 per cent to essentially nothing, although they won't be mathematically eliminated for another couple days.
"Every game has been so important for us just to crawl back up into the standings," Ruff said. "It hasn't been about eliminating one team or another team. It's just been about trying to get our game where we need it so we can move up the standings."
MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Lupul - Bozak - Kessel Kadri - Boyce - Crabb Sjostrom - Brent - Brown
Phaneuf - Aulie Gunnarsson - Schenn Lashoff - Komisarek