NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a Sunday meeting between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres at 7:30 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here
The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to get back on the winning track when they face the Buffalo Sabres to end a four-game road trip on Monday, the first meeting between both teams this season.
Toronto’s trip away from Air Canada Centre hasn’t gone well, already having gone 0-1-2 coming into Monday’s game.
“It’s regroup time,” coach Mike Babcock told the Toronto Sun. “We have a Buffalo team that would be sick and tired about hearing about the Leafs. They’re going to play hard and we have to be ready to play hard. We have to get back on track.”
The Leafs don’t have much to worry about in the standings. They sit in third place in the Atlantic Division, three points back of the Boston Bruins for the second spot, 15 points ahead of the Florida Panthers, who sit in fourth in the and 11 points ahead of the New Jersey Devils for the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re a work in progress,” Babcock told the Toronto Star. “Washington slapped us, which goes to show you. We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the other teams. We worry about what we’re doing. If there’s something to learn from, we learn from the other teams that are doing well.”
The Leafs are still without Auston Matthews, who remains shelved with an apparent shoulder injury. Matthews leads the Leafs in goals with 28 and is second in points with 50. His presence is obviously missed. Frederik Andersen allowed five goals in a 5-2 loss against the Washington Capitals in Annapolis on Saturday. He’s allowed three or more goals in 10 of his past 12 starts.
The Sabres are in a slightly different race, sitting one-point ahead of the Arizona Coyotes in the basement of the league.
The race for the best chance at selecting Rasmus Dahlin is on.
“It would be nice to be battling with a playoff spot or be competing with them,” Sabres winger Kyle Okposo told the Buffalo News. “But any time you play Toronto it’s a little different feel and it’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it. The building is electric, definitely fun games to play in. They’re coming off a few games they’ve probably like to have back so we know we’re probably going to get their best and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Sabres have won three of their past five.
And some good news on the Buffalo front: Jack Eichel is back skating.
Mike Harrington reported on Sunday that Eichel returned to the practice ice for the first time since suffering the second high-ankle sprain of his career on Feb. 10.
There is no timetable on Eichel’s return, but getting some games in before the end of the season is in the cards.
“That’s the goal. But you never know how these things react,” Housley said. “You don’t want to put any timeline on it but it’s good to see him skating and that’s a step in the right direction. Obviously, he wants to play some games before the end of the year.”
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck