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Buffalo Sabres vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Picks & NHL Preview

Sabres vs Maple Leafs NHL Line & Handicapping

Scuffling Leafs Host Improving Sabres Friday

The Toronto Maple Leafs play one of two tune-up games before the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Friday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres, a team that showed steady improvement as we approached Christmas.

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Buffalo (10-24-3-0) at Toronto (18-16-1-4)
When: 7:30 PM ET, Friday, December 27, 2013
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Broadcast: TSN, MSG-B
Sabers vs. Leafs Betting Lines
Buffalo Sabres +1½ -215 +150 Ov 5 -116
Toronto Maple Leafs -1½ +185 -165 Un 5 +105

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The Sabres enter Friday night’s game having won three of their last four games while a 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers Monday was Toronto’s seventh in nine games. Buffalo has already won two of the three meetings between the clubs making for even more of an intriguing game.

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Make no mistake about it folks – the Buffalo Sabres have not been good this season. They score just 1.68 goals per game while surrendering an average of 2.84 goals per game – not exactly a recipe for success.

With numbers like that you could imagine that there is a lack of Sabres on the Hot List. Rookie Zemgus Girgensons has three goals and three assists in his past nine games, Matt Moulson has two points in two games and Christian Erhoff has four points in his last four games – not awe-inspiring in the least. Buffalo forward Cody Hodgson (upper body) is day-to-day, Cody McCormick (upper body) and Kevin Porter (lower body) are on injured reserve – not huge names but players that Buffalo could really use in the offensive zone.

The Sabres recent turnaround has been all about Ryan Miller who won four of five starts, allowing two goals or fewer in each game. Miller has won both his starts against Toronto with a 1.49 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

It would be hard to fault the Leafs for looking ahead to their January 1 game but one thing is evident – if they don’t pull up their socks they could be embarrassed in front of the expected 100,000 attendees at the Winter Classic. Toronto has been steadily slipping down the Eastern Conference standings and now sit in seventh – with a host of pursuers right on their tails.

The Leafs were one of the better offensive teams in the NHL through the first half of the season – they had to be! The team is allowing a staggering 36.1 shots per game – often leaving their goaltenders out to dry. But Jonathan Bernier in particular has responded. He stopped 42 of 43 shots against the Rangers and has a .960 save percentage over his past three appearances. Bernier should get the start Friday.
Offensively Toronto has to get back to an attacking brand of hockey. They have scored just one goal in three of their last five games overall and outside of a four goal output against the Wings on December 21 (a loss) the team hasn’t generated much. David Clarkson is finally earning his hefty paycheck and has two points in two games while Cody Franson has two points in three.

But Nik Kulemnin and Phil Kessel each have just one point in their last five games, James van Reimsdyk has one point in six games, Mason Raymond is pointless in three games and Jake Gardiner hasn’t hit the score sheet in five games.

Dave’s FREE NHL Betting Prediction

A few trends to consider:
• Under is 8-2-5 in BUF last 15 overall.
• Under is 15-5-6 in BUF last 26 vs. Atlantic.
• BUF are 10-27 in their last 37 overall.
• Over is 35-15-2 in TOR last 52 vs. Atlantic.
• TOR are 9-19 in their last 28 Fri. games.
• BUF are 1-7 in the last 8 meetings in Toronto.
• Home team is 20-7 in the last 27 meetings.

There is nothing like a visit from the Buffalo Sabres to stop some bleeding. The Sabres have been coming on a little bit lately going 4-4-2 in their last 10 games overall while the Leafs have gone just 3-5-2 over that span. But on paper, Buffalo just doesn’t measure up. Ryan Miller may keep them close for a while but expect the Leafs to pull away in a close, low scoring game in the end. Toronto is better than they’ve been playing and Buffalo isn’t as good as their record the last two weeks.

Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs -165


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About DaveB

Dave B has been a Fantasy Football writer for us for 10 years. A couch potato wannabe, Dave’s insights have been read by 10’s of people for years. He hope’s for world peace + global relaxation. Enjoy and remember only smoke things that are completely natural.