The Toronto Maple Leafs made quick work of the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, putting up a decisive 3-0 victory with combined shutouts for Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks and two empty-net goals.
Now, the two teams will head for New York to wrap up a home and away series, kicking off game two at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
The Leafs may have dominated in the first game of the series, but there’s no guarantee for game two. Here’s what you need to know:
No news in net for Toronto for the upcoming game, but the Leafs are bringing their B-squad to Buffalo after giving stars like William Nylander, Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, and Nazem Kadri – not to mention new vet Patrick Marleau – a chance to skate out and dominate on Friday.
You’ll see Mitch Marner with JvR and Tyler Bozak on the top line, and a few other intriguing names like Grundstrom, Kapanen, Soshnikov, and Liljegren down on the blue line will all make appearances as well.
This group is far from the star-studded lineup that took on Buffalo’s B-team just last night, though, and that could even the playing field a bit.
Garret Sparks got just one period of action on Friday, so he could get the nod on Saturday, but no guarantees. One thing is certain, though; Toronto seems to want to feel out their backup situation during preseason, rather than give Frederik Andersen too much to do. He could be the starter, but it’s no guarantee.
It’s a bit surprising to see a few guys almost certainly headed for the AHL still up with the team in preseason, like Rich Clune and Michael Paliotta. As the team rides out their back-to-back, though, it should be interesting to see how even the most minor of pieces end up performing.
James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Mitch Marner
Carl Grundstrom-Eric Fehr-Kasperi Kapanen
Kerry Rychel-Dominic Moore-Andreas Johnsson
Nikita Soshnikov-Brendan Smith-Rich Clune
Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev
Calle Rosen-Connor Carrick
Martin Marincin-Rinat Valiev
Michael Paliotta-Timothy Liljegren
Toronto managed to score just one goal against goaltender Linus Ullmark on Friday, earning two of their three tallies on an empty net.
That speaks volumes to both what Buffalo’s defensive structure looked like and to how hard Ullmark worked when he was between the pipes, but he’ll get a much-needed rest for Game Two.
Starter Robin Lehner will stand behind what’s largely considered to be Buffalo’s A-team, while Ullmark was given predominantly depth players and prospects, but new head coach Phil Housley will need to show that his best are able to put up a much better performance when the puck drops at 7PM.
Here’s the lineup expected for Saturday night, per the Buffalo News:
Matt Moulson-Jack Eichel-Kyle Okposo
Evander Kane-Sam Reinhart-Jason Pominville
Kyle Smith-Johan Larsson-Hudson Fasching
Nicolas Deslauriers-Kyle Criscuolo-Justin Bailey
Nathan Beaulieu-Rasmus Ristolainen
Brendan Guhle-Matt Tennyson
Josh Gorges-Victor Antipin
Robin Lehner (start)
A handful of those names are repeats from Friday night, as four skaters – Johan Larsson, Nicolas Deslauriers, Matt Tennyson, and Victor Antipin all skate out for a back-to-back.
Preseason adjustment already by officials on slashing and face-off violations. NHL sent note to officials yesterday to dial it back a bit.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) September 23, 2017
After Friday night’s game, I pointed out that the number of penalties given out was a bit obscene – it made a reasonably clean game seem a bit like a gongshow, and no one had fun with it.
That apparently includes the NHL higher-ups, by the way; they’ve reportedly told the officials to dial it back a bit, as they navigate new standards looking to be set.
HOW TO WATCH
This game is being locally broadcast in Buffalo only, appearing on MSGB, so expect it to make an appearance in your GameCenter NHL.tv app. No guarantees on how well it will work, but you should be able to see something.
Puck drop is at 7 PM EST.