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After being dominated by the Buffalo Sabres since the 2004-05 lockout, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally picked up some wins against their Northeast Division rivals last season.
Toronto looks to earn four straight victories over the Sabres for the first time in nearly 40 years Friday night in the teams' first meeting of 2011-12.
The Leafs lost 29 of their first 39 against Buffalo following the lockout before winning the last three meetings last season by a goal apiece. It was the first time Toronto took three straight in the series since late 2002, and the Leafs last won four in a row against the Sabres when they went 5-0-0 from Nov. 21, 1971-Feb. 19, 1972.
Since that five-game win streak, Toronto has dropped 101 of 171 meetings - including playoffs.
The Maple Leafs ended a seven-game losing streak at Buffalo with a 2-1 win Feb. 16, then posted 4-3 home victories March 12 and 29.
"Often you beat yourselves before the game's even started because you don't know if you can beat their goalie or beat their team," Toronto's James Reimer said after making 28 saves in the March 29 matchup. "When you do get that win, you kind of realize: 'Oh, these guys are beatable.'
"It shouldn't be like that, but I think sometimes it is."
Reimer has lost only once in four appearances versus Buffalo despite a 3.60 goals-against average, and he's expected to be in net Friday after ending a personal three-game skid by beating Carolina 2-1 in overtime Tuesday night. It was his first win since missing 18 games with concussion-like symptoms.
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Tim Connolly scored both goals to give the Leafs (16-11-3) their second victory in six games. Toronto is in second place in the Northeast, two points ahead of Buffalo (15-12-3).
"I'm just happy to get the two points, that's a huge win for us the way the standings are and the way they're going to be throughout the season," Connolly said.
"It's going to be a constant grind. With three-point games the way they are now and overtime games, it's going to be close the whole way through."
Buffalo picked up a point in its last game when it fell 3-2 in overtime to Ottawa for its second straight defeat Tuesday night.
After allowing the tying goal in the third period and the winning tally just 45 seconds into overtime, the Sabres were focused on their poor play at home.
Buffalo is 2-5-3 in its last 10 at First Niagara Center.
"We've been nowhere near good enough at home all year," said Ryan Miller, who made a season-high 41 saves. "I don't think it's time to panic, but it's time to build the game that we need to be competitive and be a playoff-caliber team.
"It feels like it's a little bit between the ears and the guys need to get that trust. By the time you think through a situation, it's gone. Hockey moves too quick. You have to be in the flow and right in the mix of the game."
Sabres forward Ville Leino is out indefinitely after he sustained a lower-body injury Tuesday. He had a goal and four assists in his past seven games.