6:57 p.m. -- I know, it's been a tough day. You woke up to eight inches of snow in your driveway (at least I did). You watched the Sabres get blown out in Montreal. And Andre Reed missed out on the Hall of Fame again.
The Buffalo Bandits will try to ease your pain tonight.
The Bandits host the Toronto Rock with first place on the line tonight. Game time is 7:30. The Rock have a half-game lead on the Bandits.
Buffalo is missing John Tavares (calf) and Mike McNamara (hamstring) tonight. Supposedly we will see Nick Cotter and Jimmy Purves tonight, although we'll have to wait for the starting lineups to be announced.
One of tonight's questions: Will Chris White run to the wrong bench? White spent several years as a Bandit, but signed as a free agent with Toronto in the offseason. He was a class act here.
7:06 p.m. - We should mention that John Craig is back for the game. John was part of the Bandits' staff for 15 years as equipment manager. But he has moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida. I saw John before the game and mentioned that we brought Buffalo weather in just for him. John always was friendly to me, starting o the first day I started covering the team. He is missed around here.
7:12 p.m. - Kevin Brownell, Tavares and Carter Bender are Buffalo's scratches. Anthony Cosmo starts in goal. By the way, Brenden Thenhaus, who got the game-winner in the playoff game last year, is on the Toronto practice squad.
7:14 p.m. - Since tonight's game is on TSN in Canada, it is not on YouTube. It is on espn3.com.
7:41 p.m. - My computer decided to get clogged for a while, and a reboot was in order. Bandits lead, 1-0, after 2:30. Shawn Williams is acting captain.
7:45 p.m. - We're tied at 1-all for the first tv timeout. Kasey Beirnes scored on the power play for Toronto, and the Rock has another man-advantage situation. Can't do that often and expect to beat Toronto.
7:53 p.m. - Stephan Leblanc of the Rock has made it 2-1, Toronto. The Rock have had trouble getting in good shooting positions, but they've obviously done it twice.
Here's tonight's fact of the night: the Bandits have won their last three games by a goal. That's never happened in the history of the team before this. They have played three straight one-goal games before, but lost two of them.
8:02 p.m. - The end of the first quarter has arrived, and the Bandits have dug themselves a hole. They are trailing Toronto, 4-1. Colin Doyle had the the goal of the night to date, a behind-the-back beauty from the slot.
8:14 p.m. - The news gets worse for Buffalo. It's 6-2 with 7:32 left. Scott Evans made it 5-2 for the Rock, and Billy Dee Smith took out his frustration with a cross-check right after Evans scored. That was good for five minutes, and Garrett Billings added a power-play goal. And as I type, Blaine Manning has made it 7-2.
8:23 p.m. - Mark Steenhuis put the ball in the net for an apparent short-handed goal ... but after review it was ruled that the shot clock expired. Didn't see a great view of it on replay. Still 7-2.
8:32 p.m. - Bandits score three goals in the final three minutes of the half (Brock, Cotter, Steenhuis) to cut the lead to 7-5. We have a game again.
8;51 p.m. - We're back. Toronto had a 3-0 edge in power-play goals in the first half, which was huge.
8:58 p.m. - Aaron Wilson's goal made it 7-6. Buffalo has been close a few times but unable to tie it.
9:05 p.m. - Until now. Wilson took a long shot that Nick Rose should have had, but didn't. But the Bandits were only tied for 10 seconds, and now trail 8-7.
9:12 p.m. - A goal by Leblanc has made it 9-7, Toronto ... and then Wilson responds with his third of the period. So we're 9-8 with 49 seconds left in period. (It stayed 9-8 after 45 minutes.)
9:24 p.m. - Mark Steenhuis moves the Bandits to within two goals with a nice score. In the process, he draws a match penalty from Damon Edwards, who almost took off Steenhuis' head. Bandits are on a five-minute power play.
9:36 p.m. - Rock has pulled out to a 13-10 lead. Colin Doyle has three goals in this quarter. We have 4:54 left.
9:41 p.m. - Buffalo has two short-handed goals, and the lead is down to 14-12 with 2:15 to go.
9:47 p.m. - Bandits lose, 14-12. Off to locker room.
11:51 p.m. - The Bandits were all on the same page in their quotes after the game - too many bad penalties. Darris Kilgour was particularly tough on Billy Dee Smith, whose penalty led to a couple of goals that let Toronto grab a good-sized early lead.
Kilgour said that the team will take its time with John Tavares and his sore calf. They'll take a look at him in practice on Tuesday and see how he does.
The stories should be posted on The News web site shortly. Thanks for reading.
--- Budd Bailey