Tim Connolly doesn't recall exactly when he knew his time as a Sabre was over. As he returned to Buffalo today to face his old team, the Maple Leafs' center is sure of at least one thing.
"I’m certainly happy I ended up in Toronto," he said.
Connolly will take the ice in First Niagara Center tonight for the first time since signing with Toronto in July. He spent eight seasons with the Sabres, coming over in the Michael Peca trade in 2001, but he says he didn't talk with one former teammate today.
"Nope, just came in early, haven’t really talked to anybody. Just getting ready for the game tonight," said Connolly, who didn't take part in the Leafs' optional skate. "It should be pretty exciting being on the other side of a Leaf-Sabre game in this building. It’s always a good atmosphere. It should be pretty fun."
Connolly, whose play in Buffalo was overshadowed by numerous injuries, got booed by the home fans often last season. He expects the same tonight.
"I’m sure there’ll be a few boos tonight, but that’s a sign of a good group of fans," Connolly said. "I had a great time [with the Sabres], a great group of guys that I played with, a great organization. We had some good teams and some teams that didn’t make the playoffs, but overall I had a lot of fun playing in Buffalo."
It's unclear whether Connolly will face one former teammate. Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta, who was scheduled to return from a groin injury, missed Buffalo's morning skate and is questionable for tonight.
"Pat got in this morning and wasn’t feeling well," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We’ll get him through it and get him going. That’s all you can do. There’s nothing else you can do about it."
---John Vogl (twitter.com/buffnewsvogl)
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson