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TORONTO – When he lines up at centre ice, James van Riemsdyk has an idea of what he might attempt, but doesnt quite know for sure. Now tied for second in the league in shootout goals, the 24-year-old likes to see what the opposing goaltender has in store before he ultimately lands on a move. He and the Leafs continue to find good fortune in the individual reality that is the shootout, now up to a league-leading nine victories following a 4-3 edging of the Sabres at the ACC on Wednesday night. "The shootout is a game in itself obviously," said head coach Randy Carlyle afterward, his team boasting a 9-4 record in such situations. "When you win them its a positive. When you lose them its a negative. Thats the bottom line. "Were fortunate this year that our record in the shootout is a real strong positive for our hockey club and its earned I dont know how many extra points." Still trying to establish who and what they are, the Leafs have needed each and every one of the nine additional points theyve gained from their success in the shootout. On a whole lot of nights, including Wednesdays against the league-worst Sabres, theyve struggled to find a complete performance only to emerge with a victory of sorts in the shootout. Carlyle assigns shootout selection duties to assistant coach Greg Cronin. His choices have narrowed recently around three shooters – van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, and Tyler Bozak – each of whom has been better than 60 per cent on the season. Leaf shooters have actually been among the most accurate in the league this season after posting the worst mark in 2013. Led by Lupul, who has scored on six of seven attempts, including the winner against Buffalo, Toronto owns a 48.6 per cent success mark in the shootout – good for second-best in the NHL. Last season, a year in which they dropped every one of their five shootouts, the Leafs had the most futile shooters in the league – just 12.5 per cent on 24 attempts. Bozak, in fact, was the lone shooter to even score. Toronto boasts eight shootout victories since the start of November, owning just five in regulation in that same span. Now streaking with wins in three consecutive games, they sit seventh in the East with 53 points. "Theres been a lot of extra points gained by it," said Carlyle of the shootout, which sealed the season series with Buffalo. "If we can continue to find a way to get points, thats what our job is [to] get ourselves back [on track] and climbing into a playoff position." Five Points 1. Balance Rare is the night in which the Leafs have received offence from many different sources, but against the Sabres that was just the case. Each of the top three units accounted for a goal in victory, including Phil Kessels 22nd of the year, Nik Kulemins sixth and the second in the NHL career of Morgan Rielly, set up by generally quiet second unit (more on that below). "Its always an advantage if you can get three lines providing certain levels of offence," said Carlyle, who moved Peter Holland onto a third unit recently in hopes of spurring more of an attack. Toronto had scored eight goals in the previous three games, all of which came from a scorching top line of Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Bozak. "We need everybody contributing," Carlyle continued. "If you look at the teams that are having success theyve spread that offence around and theyve been able to get quality minutes from everyone in their lineup." Often over-dependent on that top unit – each member played more than 22 minutes vs. Buffalo – Wednesday marked just the 13th time in the past 35 games that the Leafs have managed three goals or more. 2. Second Line Slumber Aside from an occasional burst or odd contribution – the line had a hand in the third goal from Rielly – Torontos second line of Nazem Kadri, Mason Raymond and Joffrey Lupul has remained an infrequent source of offence. Kadri has just one goal in the past 16 games, Raymond has two goals in the past 21, and Lupul, the most effective of the group recently, has still gone pointless in 12 of the past 18 outings. A source of production for the trio earlier in the year, some of the trouble stems from lacking success on the power-play. Kadri has just one power-play point in the past 19 games, Raymond owns three in the past 21 and Lupul, just four in the previous 28 outings. 3. Reimers Night Making just his second start since Dec. 21, James Reimer showing some rust in yielding three goals on 30 shots to the Sabres, including an unlikely game-tying goal from Cody Hodgson. The first marker from Matt Ellis snuck through short side. The second goal, a Matt Moulson snipe from an odd-man Sabres rush, went post to post and under the bar, a slick shot from the former Islander. The final strike, a power-play marker from Hodgson, found an unlikely hole between Reimer and the post – one that still puzzled the 25-year-old afterward. "I still dont really know how it went in," said Reimer, who earned his first win since Dec. 19. "My foot was against the post. Thats my play. Thats what I do. Ill look at the video and see if it squeaked in somewhere where I can close it. I do that every play, every time and its never gone in." 4. Stacked Deck Jonathan Bernier has unquestionably grabbed hold of the Toronto crease in recent weeks, but theres also no doubting that Reimer has been handed a bad deck of cards. A look at the 25-year-olds five starts prior to Wednesday night and the poor performances which surrounded them: • Dec. 12 at St. Louis: 6-3 LReimers Night: 3 goals/15 shots*Post-Game Quote: "Tonight it looked like we were totally brain-dead in a lot of areas." – Randy Carlyle • Dec. 17 vs. Florida: 3-1 LReimers Night: 3 goals/23 shotsPost-Game Quote: "We simply got embarrassed." – Mason Raymond • Dec. 19 vs. Phoenix: 2-1 SOWReimers Night: 1 goal/35 shots.Post-Game Quote: "Thats the one thing we know we can count on Reims for is compete level and battle." – Joffrey Lupul • Dec. 21 vs. Detroit: 5-4 SOLReimers Night: 3 goals/12 shots* Post-Game Quote: "Obviously we didnt have a very good first period." – Randy Carlyle • Jan. 9 at Carolina: 6-1 LReimers Night: 6 goals/36 shotsPost-Game Quote: "We stood around for most of the hockey game tonight." – Randy Carlyle *Pulled after the first period 5. Riellys Progress Morgan Rielly is now 40 games into his NHL career, adding his 13th point against the Sabres. The 19-year-old has, according to Carlyle, "taken some steps and then has taken a few sideways", evaluated with a similar lens as his 23-year-old defence partner Jake Gardiner. "Our expectations for Morgan arent as high as they are for Jake at this point just being where he is in his career," said Carlyle. "Theyre both talented young players. We think that theres a future for those two guys to be a big part of our defence. We want to make sure were handling them the right way." Unlike Gardiner, who was pulled from the lineup last week, Rielly has played in every game since early December, when he sat for three consecutive games with World Junior speculation swirling. Stats-Pack 9 – Shootout victories this season, most in the NHL. 48.6 per cent - Effectiveness of Toronto shooters in the shootout this season. 1 – Goals in the past 16 games for Nazem Kadri. 5-6-0 – Record in the second end of back-to-back sets this season. 2 – Goals in the past 21 games for Mason Raymond. 3-1-1 – Record versus Buffalo this season. 4 – Consecutive games with a point for Phil Kessel. Kessel has two goals and eight points in that span. 23:33 – Ice-time for Kessel against the Sabres, most among forwards. Special Teams Capsule PP: 0-2Season: 22.1 per cent (5th) PK: 1-2Season: 77.5 per cent (27th) Quote of the Night "Youre in the same locker room then youre in the same bus, the same plane, the same hotel. The hardest part is trying to stop it from going through the entire team. Those guys have kind of been quarantined off and the rest of us have been just washing our hands and trying to stay away from it." -Joffrey Lupul, on stopping the spread of the flu bug through the Leafs dressing room. Up Next The Leafs host Montreal at the ACC on Saturday. Michael Matheson Jersey . -- Kyle Busch edged teammate Joey Logano at the Bristol Motor Speedway finish line Friday night to become the all-time winningest driver in Nationwide Series. James Reimer Jersey .ca/CurlingSkins - with the Top 16 curlers earning a ticket to Banff, Alta. to compete in the TRAVELERS ALL-STAR CURLING SKINS GAME Presented by Pintys, running Jan. http://www.hockeypanthersofficialonline ... ey-jersey/. The first of the three games will be played in Week 4, when the Oakland Raiders will take on the Miami Dolphins on Sept. Florida Panthers Jerseys . Louis Blues and Buffalo Sabres came to an agreement on a big trade that may only offer incremental improvement to the Blues in their quest for a Stanley Cup. Denis Malgin Jersey . -- Miami Dolphins defensive co-ordinator Kevin Coyle defended the management style of coach Joe Philbin in the wake of the teams bullying scandal.SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Carolina Hurricanes took advantage of solid goaltending on their end and an unexpected change in the other net. Jiri Tlusty scored twice and Anton Khudobin stopped 35 shots to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Khudobin recorded his first shutout this season with the Hurricanes, and the third of his career. His last shutout was March 31, 2013, at Buffalo as a member of the Boston Bruins. Jeff Skinner also scored for the Hurricanes. "Its always good when you (dont) get scored on in a game. But the most important is we just got the W," Khudobin said. Dan Ellis, who played last season for Carolina, started the second period in relief of Roberto Luongo and made 18 saves. Luongo left the game after the first period with an upper body injury sustained in a collision with Carolinas Radek Dvorak. The Panthers described it as a precautionary measure. Luongo stopped 11 of 12 shots. Dvorak was assessed a game misconduct at 12:48 of the first when he crashed into Luongo and sent him into the net, knocking it off its moorings. Floridas Erik Gudbranson was assessed a roughing penalty for engaging Dvorak in retaliation. "I?made the shot and then I was driving like 100 miles per hour to the net and then I got a little push," Dvorak said. "Next thing I?knew I was in the net with Louie, but it was not intentional at all. Thats not my style." Dvorak, who has a home in the area, had over 20 family members and friends attending the game, only to see him exit early. "Obviously, you want to finish the game because you want to play in front of your family, in front of your friends, but sometimes you have a little bit of bad luck," Dvorak said. "But the thing is we got two pooints after the game, which is more important for us.dddddddddddd" Khudobin was pleased with his own play but concerned about Luongo. "I?hope hes OK and hes not going to have anything, but at the same time its just hockey," Khudobin said. "Sometimes it happens, but I?dont feel good about it." It didnt take long for the Hurricanes to take advantage of the goalie change as they scored two goals in five minutes. Tlusty scored his second goal after he grabbed a loose puck to the left of the net. Ellis fell down in the crease and wasnt able to reach across to block the shot from the left side. Tlusty found the net at 2:30 of the second for his third two-goal game of the season and a 2-0 lead. The Hurricanes stretched their advantage to 3-0 on Skinners goal. He took a pass from behind the net and his shot from the right side beat Ellis on the stick side at 5:46 of the second. "Its never a fun situation because you know your partner . something might not be good with him," Ellis said. "Thats the job and you have to be ready when they call you. I wish I could have made two more saves." The Hurricanes took a 1-0 lead on Tlustys first goal 9:09 into the first period. Eric Staal grabbed a loose puck along the left boards and brought it toward the net. He passed to Tlusty low in the right circle. Tlusty was able to work the puck and get Luongo out of position and score on a wrist shot. "Tonight we scored the first goal, which is always better than being one down. Everyone came ready," Tlusty said. NOTES: Gudbranson returned to the lineup after missing the past nine games with a knee injury. ... The Hurricanes won all three games against the Panthers this season. ... Khudobin has started five of the past six games for the Hurricanes. 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