The rivalry isn’t what it used to be, but the Monday after a Bills-Dolphins game is always better if the Bills win.
The same can be said when the Sabres play the Maple Leafs. Maybe the players aren’t for blood like in years past, but there’s still some mystique to the match-up.
One of the big stories going into the game is Mike Komisarek’s return to the Toronto line-up. He’s a physical presence and could give the Leafs an emotional boost.
Pat Kaleta and Paul Gaustad will be watching from the press box so someone on offense is going to have to step up for the Sabres and throw the body around. Expect a few cheap shots from Adam Mair.
For the Sabres, the offense has been pretty stagnant this month. Before the Philadephia game, they hadn’t scored four or more goals in a single contest since Oct. 28. The goals came in bunches on Saturday but a more consistent effort is needed if this team wants to prove they’re not the same as the 2007-08 and 2008-09 Sabres.
The Monster will be in net for Toronto and while he’s about as intimidating as a surprised kitten, he’s much better than Awful Michael Leighton (I blame Leighton for a lot of things).
Maybe keeping Thomas Vanek, Tim Kennedy and Mike Grier together will provide a spark. Not playing Nathan Paetsch on the wing and calling up someone like Tyler Ennis or Mark Mancari could also help, but it doesn’t look GMDR has made any call-ups.
The other big story is Ryan Miller. For some strange reason, Miller will be between the pipes for the Sabres tonight. Heads are being scratched all across North America because it means Patrick Lalime probably won’t see another start until Kwanzaa.
Miller playing in Toronto means Brian Burke will be able to see him up close as Burke decides on his No. 1 starting goaltender for the Olympics. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, though.
The numbers should speak for themselves. Miller’s first in the league in both save percentage and goals against average, fourth in wins and fifth in shutouts with a pair.
He’s going to make the Team USA roster and should start over Tim Thomas, Craig Anderson and/or Jonathan Quick. An NHL regular-season game at the end of November shouldn’t make or break that.
And it doesn’t seem as if Miller is feeling any extra pressure for his pseudo-audition:
#sabres goalie Ryan Miller, when asked if there was pressure playing in front of U.S. Olympic GM Brian Burke: “Brian Burke is everywhere.”
So why bother playing Miller against the 14th place team in the East? Has Lindy Ruff lost that much faith in Lalime? Or is it something else?
It’s a Versus game tonight so you’ll have to put on the radio if you want to hear the Borderline-Dirty Harry Neale Joke of the Evening.