There was a bright side for the Sabres in their 8-1 beatdown at the hands of the Toronto. Unlike the regular season, when Maple Leafs fans stream over the border and fill KeyBank Center, not many Toronto backers showed up Friday to taunt them.
That might be the only bright spot.
Toronto trounced Buffalo in their preseason rematch, making up for its lack of goals Thursday during the Sabres’ 1-0 shootout win. The Leafs scored seven unanswered goals to rout the home team in a half-empty arena. Buffalo fell to 2-2 during its exhibitions.
Lehner a late scratch: Robin Lehner was scheduled to play the whole game for Buffalo, but the goaltender didn’t dress after suffering a forearm contusion. The Sabres said Lehner would have been cleared to play if it were the regular season.
Two injuries: Dmitry Kulikov’s debut with the Sabres ended with 8:21 to play because of an apparent back injury. Colin Greening hit the defenseman behind the play, and Kulikov went airborne into the door of the Leafs’ bench, with the gate opening on contact. Kulikov went to the dressing room holding his back.
Buffalo right wing Nicholas Baptiste suffered a lower-back injury and did not return.
In a hole in a hurry: The Sabres gave up as many goals in one period as they had in their opening three games. Toronto struck for four goals in the first period to take a 4-1 lead. The daggers to the Sabres’ hopes came during the final minute when defenseman Matt Hunwick scored twice in 12 seconds. His first shot from the left point deflected off Sabres defenseman Brady Austin. Hunwick’s second goal, with 35 seconds to go, was a laser into the top corner from the faceoff circle.
Different goalies, same problem: Jason Kasdorf started in goal but lasted just 20 minutes. He stopped nine of 13 shots but had little help on the goals. John Muse found similar lack of support during the second period as the replacement. The Leafs again got open and slipped shots through traffic, scoring three times on 13 shots to enter the final period with a 7-1 lead.
Grant rolls on: Derek Grant continued his push to start to the season in Buffalo, scoring midway through the opening period to pull Buffalo into a 1-1 tie. After winning two power-play faceoffs in the Leafs’ zone, Grant got to the side of the net and banked home Justin Bailey’s rebound off goalie Jhonas Enroth. Grant has two goals and two assists in three preseason games.
O’Reilly free to return: With Canada ending the World Cup on Thursday night, Ryan O’Reilly’s sole team is the Sabres.
“That’s one of the few times I was rooting for Canada to win,” Sabres and former USA Hockey coach Dan Bylsma said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan showed up tonight or showed up tomorrow morning because that’s the kind of player he is, but we’ll set a time frame for him to get back into practice. He’s played quite a bit of hockey, so he’ll get a few days off here.”
Once O’Reilly is back, the Sabres will have their full arsenal. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, a restricted free agent, is practicing and taking part in meetings while negotiations continue.
“The contract situation will take care of itself, but I do think it says a lot about the young man wanting to be here,” Bylsma said.
Young leaders: The Sabres have been rotating the A’s throughout the preseason, and Friday’s alternate captains were forward Sam Reinhart and defenseman Jake McCabe. Captain Brian Gionta also played.
Right to the box: The Sabres may have set a record for the quickest too many men on the ice penalty, getting called for the infraction just 39 seconds into the game.
Enroth returns: Enroth, who spent the seven years of his career in the Sabres’ organization, started in goal for the Maple Leafs. Enroth signed a one-year contract with the Leafs and is competing with Garret Sparks to back up fellow offseason-acquisition Frederik Andersen.
Enroth barely broke a sweat Friday. He faced just nine shots and stopped eight in 30:52 of action before giving way to Antoine Bibeau.
Next: The Sabres will play their fifth and sixth preseason games against Carolina on back-to-back nights. The teams meet Tuesday in Marquette, Mich., and Wednesday in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Buffalo will close the preseason Friday against Ottawa in the Senators’ arena.