SPORTS

NHL things to know: 5 storylines for Leafs-Sabres

03/11/2015 01:16 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 05:59 EDT
It’s hard to believe, but the noise at Air Canada Centre could reach a Stanley Cup playoff level Wednesday night when the winless-in-three Toronto Maple Leafs host Buffalo.

The crowd will probably get excited when a goal is scored — by either team.

That’s because Toronto and Buffalo sit 27th and 30th, respectively, in the NHL standings, so a loss could help either team. For the Leafs, it could improve their chance at a high lottery pick. For the Sabres, it would strengthen their hold on last place in hopes at a shot at Ontario Hockey League star Connor McDavid, the consensus No. 1 pick in this summer’s NHL draft.

Dare to dream

Let’s see, 0-15-0 and 8-8-0. Should the Toronto Maple Leafs not post another win this season and Buffalo plays at a .500 clip, the Sabres would finish a point ahead (59-58) in the Atlantic Division standings.

The same scenario would apply should Buffalo go 10-6-0 and the Leafs 2-13-0. It would go a long way in improving the Leafs’ chances at an improved lottery pick, especially if Arizona and Edmonton, the teams between Toronto and the Sabres, pick up their play, even marginally. Remember, Buffalo started a run of 10 wins in 13 games with a 6-2 victory over Toronto on Nov. 15, so a hot streak isn’t foreign to them.

Last meeting

Here’s a refresher for Maple Leafs fans who can’t recall that embarrassing November setback in Buffalo:

- The Sabres snapped a five-game losing streak that night. 

- Tyler Myers and Zemgus Girgensons, with his second goal of the night, scored in a span of 3:32 to put the game away. Tyler Ennis also stood out with a goal and two assists.

- Disgusted Toronto-heavy crowd at First Niagara Center tossed Maple Leafs jerseys and beverages on the ice.

- The six goals by Buffalo represented its greatest output since a 7-4 win at Boston on Jan. 31, 2013. They have six just once since Nov. 15, a 6-3 over Vancouver on Feb. 26.

Kadri to sit 2 more games

Toronto head coach Peter Horachek is making sure his roster stays in a weakened state for Buffalo’s arrival by benching forward Nazem Kadri for a second straight game. The fifth-year NHLer sat out Monday's 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders and reportedly will be a healthy scratch for Friday’s visit to Calgary. 

Banged-up blue-lines

Maple Leafs fans will be hoping for a speedy recovery for a pair of Buffalo defencemen to help strengthen the Sabres’ back end. Zach Bogosian and Andrej Meszaros sat out Monday’s practice. Meszaros was struck in the head by a shot early in Saturday’s 6-1 loss at Washington. Bogosian took an Alex Ovechkin blast to the foot in the second and took only two shifts in the third period, but Sabres coach Ted Nolan is optimistic he can play in Toronto. The Maple Leafs are without Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak, who are slated for season-ending shoulder and hernia surgeries, respectively.

Bad special effects

This game might be hard to watch, especially if either team spends time in the penalty box. Toronto’s penalty kill has surrendered a goal in five straight games and in 10 of 11. The Maple Leafs’ power play has registered just two goals on its last 33 chances. Buffalo isn’t any better, ranking last in the league on the power play (11.2 per cent) and penalty kill (74.2 per cent).

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Calgary Flames look to improve their playoff positioning when they host the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks. The Flames are third in the division with 77 points, tied with Los Angeles, but Calgary has the tiebreaker with 32 regulation and overtime wins (ROW) to the Kings’ 30. Minnesota and Winnipeg hold down the wild-card spots in the West with 81 and 78 points, respectively. 

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