The Sabres and the Leafs are finally playing this season

March 5, 2018

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - It's so strange that the first game for the Buffalo Sabres against the Toronto Maple Leafs is March 5. They play three times this month and once in April. Jason Pominville is well aware of the rivalry against the Leafs from his first time in Buffalo and he can’t believe it took 66 games to play the Leafs, “It’s really strange, we’ll see them quite a few times from here on out and to haven’t seen them this far into the season is a weird schedule and it should be an interesting battle from here on out with them."

Nate Beaulieu said he’s never seen anything like it, “It’s crazy. I was thinking about that the other day that I just haven’t been able to fathom the fact that I haven’t played against the Leafs yet this year.”

This is a rivalry for Buffalo fans because Toronto fans have never really cared about the Sabres. Pominville remembers a lot from the games in this building, “It was great, especially the games here. They get quite a few fans, our fans are going, it makes a pretty good atmosphere and usually easy games to get up for.”

There are so many things that have happened in this rivalry over the years. Pominville has one in particular, “The funniest for me was the Petey (Andrew Peters) golf swing, that’s one that stood out. Obviously it wasn’t something he should’ve done, but it was pretty funny for the guys at the time.” It was a late season game and Toronto wasn't going to make the playoffs. Peters was getting kicked out of the game and he stopped to do a golf swing near the Leafs bench.

Pominville was traded from Buffalo to Minnesota so of course I wondered who that huge rival was for the Wild? “Winnipeg which was an hour flight and Chicago which we played and lost three years in a row to them in the playoffs, so that’s another, they would always get quite a few fans in our building.

“It was bad, but nothing like this, they didn’t get as many fans as Toronto gets in our building, but yes, you get that extra motivation.”

I said earlier, Buffalo isn’t a rival for Toronto, but Montreal sure is. Beaulieu played parts of five years in Montreal. He said, “You’re just known to hate them. Anytime you’re in a Canadian market playing against a Canadian team, fans like to get into it, but I’ve played a lot of games (13) against Toronto, so it should be interesting.

“I’ve never liked the Leafs even as a kid growing up.”

Beaulieu has never played the Leafs as a Sabres and he can’t wait to see what the atmosphere is like, “It’s going to be a physical game, so it should be fun to watch.”

When Phil Housley played in Buffalo, he said his big rivalry was against Boston. He said despite that, he enjoyed the Leaf rivalry, “Toronto was always a terrific rivalry, it was playing in the Aud and playing in the old Garden and that was quite an experience.”

Brendan Guhle never got called back up to Buffalo because he suffered an injury in January. Housley said he’s back because he deserved the opportunity to be back.

Casey Nelson and Victor Antipin played very well together as Antipin’s game has been great since the pairing began. Guhle and Nelson played very well together in Rochester and that will be the pair against the Leafs. That puts Antipin on the right side with Beaulieu. Marco Scandella is OK and will be back with Rasmus Ristolainen. Justin Falk and Josh Gorges will sit out.


Monday’s lines:

Girgensons - O’Reilly - Reinhart

Nolan - Josefson - Okposo

Wilson - Larsson - Pominville

Pouliot - Criscuolo - Baptiste



Chad Johnson gets the call in goal. Johnson is on a run of 5-2-0 giving up 14 goals in eight games. In his last two starts, he’s beaten Boston and Tampa Bay giving up just two goals.

Overall, Johnson is 6-10-3 with a 3.18 goals against and .896 save percentage.

Buffalo is 8-2-0 in its last 10 games at home against the Leafs.

Toronto is without Auston Matthews. Despite missing 14 games this season, Matthews has 28 goals and 22 assists for 50 points.

Just because Matthews is gone doesn’t mean the Leafs can’t score. Mitch Marner had a miserable start to the season, but he now has 53 points in 67 games.

James van Riemsdyk has 26 goals while Nazem Kadri has 24.

Frederik Andersen was pulled in Saturday’s outdoor game against Washington. Andersen gave up five goals in just over 31 minutes of work. Before that, he gave up three goals in each of the last three games and had a 40 save shutout against Florida. Lately Andersen is 7-2-1.

Overall, he’s 32-17-5 with a 2.74 goals against and .920 save percentage.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog for the pre-game show at 6:30 p.m. live from (716) Food and Sport when they’ll be joined by Phil Housley, Jason Pominville and Nate Beaulieu.