Tonight marks the second meeting in 13 days between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the interim, not much has changed.
The story behind the previous encounter was two teams with the league’s worst record playing for the right to leave that dubious honor behind, at least for a little while. Toronto was able to do so with a come-from-behind victory that was part of a season-best 3-0-4 run, but has won just one game since. Those two victories, along with the Hurricanes’ four points in their last three games, have the teams back on equal footing with 11 points in the standings.
The Canes have more momentum this time around, with the aforementioned three-game points streak compared to Toronto’s four straight regulation losses.
“It has not been an easy or a fun time around here by any means, but the process has improved,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “We’ll hang our hat on that, and hope it keeps going tonight.”
Even with off-season signing coup Mike Komisarek on injured reserve, Toronto is the healthier team compared to Carolina, which will be without Joni Pitkanen
, Scott Walker and Michael Leighton in addition to star players Eric Staal
and Cam Ward
Now that the Hurricanes have placed Ward on long-term injured reserve and Eric Staal
on injured reserve, the team has enough cap and roster space to recall forward Patrick Dwyer
, who is having a good season for Albany (a nice story from the Albany Times-Union here). Dwyer is expected to skate on the fourth unit with Stephane Yelle and Tom Kostopoulos, and may get a chance to show his deftness at killing penalties.
“We’ve had some things to maneuver, but we’ve had some success now with bringing kids in to play,” said Maurice. “Bryan Rodney has come in and played very, very well, and now we put Patty Dwyer in who can skate and is playing very well in the American League. We do have some good young kids there that we could see more of.”
Since making his season debut later than most due to off-season shoulder surgery, Phil Kessel has done what Toronto hoped he would after giving Boston two first-round draft choices and one second-round pick for his services – no small price considering the Leafs’ struggles this season. Through his first seven games, Kessel has five goals and eight points, making him the team’s only point-per-game regular alongside defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
It’s unclear how much of the rough stuff in Toronto’s last game was due to their division rivalry with Ottawa, but the Leafs could bring more of that to Raleigh tonight. Four different Toronto players earned fighting majors on Tuesday, although a few of the Canes’ more willing combatants in Walker and Tim Conboy will be out of the lineup.