The Toronto Maple Leafs are desperate to turn around a sluggish stretch, and a meeting with the Buffalo Sabres doesn't usually help their cause.
Fortunately for the Maple Leafs, they won't have Ryan Miller standing in their way.
Toronto looks to end a four-game slide by beating the Sabres at home for just the second time in almost three years Saturday night.
A 4-0 start had the Maple Leafs (5-5-2) feeling confident about the prospects of ending a five-season playoff drought after finishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in 2009-10.
Going 1-5-2 since that strong start has left them scrambling. Their losing streak continued Wednesday with a 5-4 shootout defeat at Washington.
"Every night it's critical points for us," defenseman Mike Komisarek said. "We had a great start. We've sort of been up and down here the last couple games. We're at a key point in our season. We want to be right in the thick of things around Christmas time.
"Last year, it was the worst feeling in the world, going into Christmas, the holidays and New Year and being aways out of the playoff picture. Having a mountain to climb to get back into it."
The Leafs may have avoided a much larger challenge against the Sabres (3-9-2), who will be without Miller for a third consecutive game due to a lower-body injury.
Toronto is 1-8-2 in its last 11 meetings with Buffalo, dropping eight of nine (1-6-2) at Air Canada Centre since a win there in January 2008.
Much of those struggles can be attributed to Miller, who is 22-8-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average and four shutouts against the Leafs while winning eight of nine at Toronto.
With the reigning Vezina Trophy winner sidelined, the Sabres will try to end a five-game slide after falling 3-2 to Montreal on Friday.
"It's frustrating when you're losing games," right wing Mike Grier said. "You're in it to win, and we all take pride in being professionals. We think we're a good team, but right now we're shooting ourselves in the foot."
Buffalo will opt to start either Patrick Lalime or Jhonas Enroth in net.
Lalime is 0-3-0 with a 3.32 GAA in four games after making 29 saves Friday. He's 1-3-0 with a 3.84 GAA in his last five games versus the Maple Leafs, but hasn't faced them since a win with Chicago on Oct. 20, 2007.
Enroth was pulled after one period in his only appearance, giving up three goals on 12 shots Wednesday in a 5-2 loss to Boston.
Derek Roy, the team leader with six goals and seven assists, is enduring a three-game point drought and is a minus-4 in that span. The center had one goal and five assists in the previous three contests.
Roy has 11 goals in 21 games at Air Canada Centre - his highest total at any visiting venue.
The Leafs' Phil Kessel is also trying to shake out of a scoring funk. The right wing hasn't managed a point in four games after scoring seven goals with two assists in the previous eight.
He has only one point in his last five games against Buffalo.