Preview: Game #31 Leafs @ Sabres – Lupul suspended two games

So Lupul was suspended for his hit on Victor Hedman for two games, and I have to say I’m quite surprised. Ryan Hamilton was called up to fill Mike Komisarek’s spot in the lineup, so he’ll play for the Leafs in Buffalo. Leafs without Lupul, but the bigger absentee in this game is Thomas Vanek, out with a lower-body injury for the Sabres.

I didn’t see the play with sound on, but I’m guessing it’s from when Vanek was hit by a Christian Ehrhoff slapshot against Montreal on Tuesday in the team’s 3-2 win. Might have been Ehrhoff, I could be wrong there, but Vanek missed the second half of the game. He came out to do a skate during a TV timeout and is still practicing with the team so poolies, it probably isn’t long-term.

The Sabres have been pretty well a two-man team this season. The other guy is Ehrhoff.

Derek at The Hosers has a run-down on the career season of Buffalo’s long-term defenceman. Every single Buffalo player is miles better when on the ice alongside Ehrhoff and it isn’t particularly close. That could be because Ehrhoff and his defence partner Alex Sulzer play the easier minutes, zone start-wise and quality of competition-wise according to the usage chart, but the gap really is that huge.

Put it this way: Thomas Vanek is a 43.3% possession player when he isn’t on the ice with Ehrhoff, and Cody Hodgson is 36.3%. These are small samples, only about 100 minutes or so for Hodgson, but the effect is so distinct. In the scheme of German defencemen, Ehrhoff is the anti-Korbinian Holzer.

Broadcast Info:

Puck Drop: 7 PM EDT

TV: Sportsnet

By the numbers:

  Buffalo Toronto
Corsi Tied % 43.4% (30th) 45.3% (26th)
5v5 GF/GA Ratio 0.90 (21st) 1.03 (13th)
Team Shooting % 8.31% 10.21%
Team Save % 0.919 0.920
Team PDO 1.002 1.023

Special teams:

  Buffalo Toronto
PP Success 12.0% (30th) 16.8% (18th)
5v4 GF/60 3.71 (30th) 5.68 (16th)
5v4 SF/60 47.1 (17th) 47.8 (13th)
PK Success 78.8% (23rd) 85.4% (6th)
4v5 GA/60 6.67 (18th) 5.10 (6th)
4v5 SA/60 56.2 (26th) 44.0 (9th)

Numbers via and Hockey Analysis


Buffalo has become the worst puck-possession team in the NHL and are getting terrible results on special teams. If it weren’t for picking up points in 11 of 18 one-goal games (7-7-4) things could be a lot worse for the Sabres. They seem destined for a top three pick and nothing is going right. They sent down No. 12 overall Mikhail Grigorenko after burning a year off his entry-level deal.

Now Vanek is out, and Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville are going to have to play with Steve Ott. Didn’t work out so much last game. Sure, they were up for much of this contest against the Habs, but I’d never seen a team suffer that strong a shot-clock differential in a game before. Montreal had 31 shots on goal, 20 missed shots and 20 more attempts blocked. The Sabres had just 14 shots, 4 missed and 8 blocked. So much of the game was spent in the Sabres end, much of it against the Sabres’ top line.

So this is the second game in a row the Leafs should be able to beat. Lines, I’m assuming:

Jason Pominville – Cody Hodgson – Steve Ott
Drew Stafford – Tyler Ennis – Ville Leino
Marcus Foligno – Kevin Porter – Brian Flynn
John Scott – Jochen Hecht – Patrick Kaleta

Mike Weber – Christian Ehrhoff
Robyn Regehr – Tyler Myers
Jordan Leopold – Mark Pysyk

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

This is not a bad looking lineup.

This is an awful looking lineup. The Sabres have had a hard enough time with a limited roster, now you have to go sideline Vanek, Andrej Sekera, and Alex Sulzer.

The Leafs lines are being debated in Steve Dangle’s recap of the Leafs-Lightning game. Again, I’m very surprised at the Lupul suspension considering he’s not a repeat offender and the Rule 48 violations that were suspended came on much worse hits last season. Either way, he’ll be out again and the Leafs will have to fill the hole.

As much as I’d like to see a roster complete with Lupul and Ryan Hamilton in place of Colton Orr on the fourth line right wing so you have a line that can play more than three shifts a game, you can’t tonight and Orr has to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if Carlyle moves Orr up in the lineup in this game to play with Nazem Kadri since he’s already done that before. I’d like to see something like this, if Carlyle is dead set on Bozak as his first line centre:

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur – Nazem Kadri – Matt Frattin
Ryan Hamilton – Mikhail Grabovski – Nik Kulemin
Colton Orr – Jay McClement – Leo Komarov

Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner – John-Michael Liles
Mark Fraser – Cody Franson

James Reimer
Ben Scrivens

Despite it being a back to back, Paul Hendrick says it’s probably Reimer’s game.

Tough news about Lupul. He drives more page clicks than he drives play, but he’s looked dangerous since coming back and is a natural to play with Kadri since Lupul’s best talent is putting his stick on the ice.

Question of the game: against such a bad defensive team in Buffalo, can the Leafs first line finally get it together?