LGD: Invading Frenemy Territory

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Photo Credit: Peter Llewellyn / USA TODAY SPORTS

Leafs fans are known for making the trek across the border to invade First Niagara Centre during games against the Buffalo Sabres – so much so that many blue and gold season ticket holders almost even up by selling their Leafs games and going to the rest. 

But does the same thing happen in the pre-season? The price gap isn’t there, after all. Maybe fans need an excuse to go to Target, now that all the Canadian locations are gone? Anyway, we’ll see how many of the Toronto faithful are in the crowd tonight when the Leafs take on the Sabres.

The Leafs

The lines, according to LeafsTV’s Paul Hendrick:

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Brad Boyes

Shawn Matthias – Nazem Kadri – Joffrey Lupul

Michael Grabner – Nick Spaling – PA Parenteau

Rich Clune – William Nylander – Connor Brown

Matt Hunwick – Dion Phaneuf

Jake Gardiner – Morgan Rielly

Scott Harrington – Martin Marincin

We’re starting to see what looks like a full lineup out of the Leafs, save for the fourth line and Scott Harrington, who are all projected to end up on the Toronto Marlies. Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer will split this game, with the latter starting it.

The Sabres

The Lines, according to Buffalo Hockey Beat’s Bill Hoppe:

Evander Kane – Ryan O’Reilly – Tyler Ennis

Matt Moulson – Jack Eichel – Brian Gionta

Nick Deslauriers – David Legwand – Marcus Foligno

Evan Rodrigues – Cal O’Reilly – Sam Reinhart

Brendan Guhle – Carlo Colaiacovo

Matt Donovan – Cody Franson

Rasmus Ristolainen – Mike Weber

It’s a vaguely similar situation for the Sabres, who will be playing their top two lines in what appears to be Jack Eichel’s pre-season home debut. The defence is a little empty, but that’s due to injuries to Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe, and Chad Ruwedel. Patrick Kaleta is hurt up front, but that sounds like a good thing for all parties involved. Robin Lehner will start in goal and go the distance.

What To Watch For

Honestly? A nearly real hockey game is the biggest part of tonight. The teams are both playing a minimum of nine NHL forwards, complete top-sixes, NHL goaltenders, and something resembling defensive pairings. The “have a look” part of the pre-season is finally transitioning to the “get prepared” phase, and thank goodness for that.

Plus, we get to see Jack Eichel, which is always fun. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM on TSN 4.