Over the course of the past few weeks, the Carolina Hurricanes have both enjoyed success and endured disappointment.
Lately, it's been the latter for the Hurricanes, who seek to prevent their first six-game slide in almost six years on Monday night when they face the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs for the second time in five days.
Carolina (21-20-5) secured eight victories in 11 contests from Dec. 16-Jan. 6, capped by a season-high four-game winning streak. But that surge has been followed by five straight losses - all in regulation - for the team's longest slide since going 0-4-1 from Dec. 5-15, 2006.
A stagnant offense has compounded those struggles, as the Hurricanes have managed just nine goals in this stretch - including Thursday's 6-4 defeat to visiting Toronto (17-21-7). They're averaging just 2.5 goals thus far after scoring 3.1 per contest last season.
On Saturday, they totaled 37 shots, but only Ray Whitney's 14th goal found the back of the net in a 3-1 loss at Buffalo.
Carolina has dropped a season-high four straight on the road, but is in jeopardy of its longest overall slump since losing six consecutive regulation games from March 26-April 6, 2003.
"We're not where we want to be," said coach Paul Maurice, who is 9-9-3 since replacing the fired Peter Laviolette. "We are struggling around both nets, ours and theirs. We'll keep the faith and keep the fight."
Maurice's club showed some fight late in its most recent matchup against Toronto, notching three goals in a 7:19 span of the third period to erase a 4-1 deficit before eventually losing for the first time in three season contests to the Maple Leafs.
Carolina has won five of the last seven in the series, though it has alternated wins and losses over its last six visits to Air Canada Centre.
"We have to keep playing hard and believing in ourselves," Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour said. "We're not pointing fingers. We're all in it together."
Cam Ward is likely seeking some personal improvement, as he's allowed 19 goals during the slide.
In his 11th straight start Saturday, he made 23 saves while falling to 4-6-1 against Northeast Division teams. Ward gave up five goals to the Maple Leafs Thursday, and is 5-5-1 with a 3.53 goals-against average in 11 career matchups.
Though Toronto is averaging 2.96 goals, it is also allowing 3.6 per contest and has conceded 48 in losing nine of its last 12 contests (3-8-1). It settled for one point Friday, blowing a 3-0 first-period lead in a 4-3 overtime loss to Atlanta.
"We let the lead slip away. We kind of sat back a little too much and let them come at us instead of sticking with our game plan," said Dominic Moore, who ended a five-game goal-scoring drought with his ninth tally.
Vesa Toskala stopped 34 shots Friday, but has allowed 37 goals over his last 10 starts. He made 28 saves against Carolina on Thursday, and is 2-3-3 with a 3.98 GAA in eight career matchups.
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, who leads the team with 19 goals and is second with 34 points, has nine goals and 21 points in his last 15 matchups with Toronto.
Whitney has three goals and nine assists during a seven-game point streak versus the Maple Leafs, and leads the Hurricanes with 38 points.
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