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Gameday: Hurricanes at Maple Leafs

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

TORONTO - In the classic words of the great Willie Nelson, "on the road again …"

This is the gameday hub, where you can find all the latest news and information related to tonight's match-up between the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs in one handy location. Make this a regular stop throughout the day, as we update it with notes, photos and more as puck drop draws near.

The Hurricanes will hold an 11:30 a.m. morning skate at Air Canada Centre, and we'll be rinkside to bring you lineup updates, quotes from inside the locker room and more.

Last updated: 5:35 p.m.

5:35 p.m.

Mike Maniscalco presents tonight's Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina three Tools to Victory.

1. Take It To Toronto

Take the play to the Maple Leafs in the first period. A young team doesn't want to defend early and it takes the crowd out of the game.

2. Nothing Odd

Don't allow the Maple Leafs to break out of the defensive zone and create odd-man rushes.

3. Stay Disciplined

The Canes broke open Sunday's game with the man advantage, and Toronto takes a lot of penalties. On the road, the Hurricanes need to take advantage of the power play when given the chance.

2:50 p.m.

Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters met with the media in Toronto following his team's morning skate. Here are some highlights.

On the team's recent play: "We're starting to form a bit of an identity. We've got to play to our identity, and we've got to play that way for 60 minutes."

On Elias Lindholm: "He's been real good. He's played multiple different positions for us. … We've used him in the middle, used him on the wing, he kills penalties, he plays on the power play. He's really evolved into a good player for us who plays in all situations."

On how the departure of Eric Staal changed the leadership in the room: "I think the guy it's impacted the most is Jeff Skinner. From the trade deadline on, Jeff Skinner's been a better player, a big part of what we're doing. He's dangerous offensively each and every shift. He's just grown into that leadership role. It feels like Skinny has been in the league forever, but he hasn't. He's still a young guy who's getting better as he goes. He's more competitive and he's stayed healthy. He's a guy we lean on."

On potentially reuniting the TSA line: "We'll see. You flip the wingers, and that takes how many seconds? 1.5 seconds? … A lot of it now being on the road for the next three is they're going to dictate match-ups, so if we do want to get somebody away from a match-up, we can flip people."

On Lack's concussion, suffered in practice on Monday: "It was news to me. I was packing up and going to plane when I found out."

11:35 a.m.

Just a couple of tweaks have been made to the lines we initially projected, including the return of the TSA line.




Tweet from @MSmithCanes: The early stages of the #Canes morning skate.

6:00 a.m.

We don't anticipate the Hurricanes making many lineup adjustments, if even any at all, heading into tonight's game. Cam Ward is the confirmed starter in net.




6:00 a.m.

The Carolina Hurricanes knew they needed to make the most of their five-game homestand, and they did just that, winning four-straight games to snag eight of 10 points to climb a few rungs on the Eastern Conference standings ladder.

The Hurricanes will now play nine of their next 11 games on the road, beginning this week with a three-game jaunt through Canada.

"We've gone out on the road and played well in stretches. We haven't played as well for a 60-minute, complete game as we would like," head coach Bill Peters said after a brief but efficient skate on Monday morning. "Now when we go out on the road with the game we currently have, we should be fine."

That team game is one that has allowed the Canes to flourish in a number of ways: winning big, like they did against the Washington Capitals in a 5-1 decision; winning a closely-contested match, like they did against the San Jose Sharks in a 1-0 shutout; erasing a deficit, like they did against the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-2 come-from-behind win; and holding strong to a lead in a physical match, like they did against the Winnipeg Jets in a 3-1 victory.

"We're just playing a real good brand of hockey. … Everyone is finding a way to contribute within their role," Peters said. "We can win with different styles. We can play a fast game, we can play a skill game. I thought last night when it got physical we were right there banging and hanging."

Goaltender Cam Ward has been a driving force in the Canes' recent success. In the month of November, Ward has earned a 5-1-2 record while posting a 1.59 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage (just 13 goals against on 231 shots faced).

Ward earned second star honors from the league on Monday after posting a perfect 3-0-0 record and a stingy 1.01 goals-against average and .964 save percentage last week.

"He's played unbelievable. He's been the best player on our team over the past few games," Noah Hanifin said after Sunday's win over Winnipeg. "He's been huge for us. It makes us feel a lot more comfortable back there in the D-zone knowing how he's been playing."

It's no surprise, then, that Ward will be called upon again tonight in Toronto. On Monday afternoon, the Canes recalled goaltender Michael Leighton from Charlotte after Eddie Lack suffered a concussion in practice.

"I know [Ward] is going to play tomorrow, and then we'll go from there," Peters said. "He's obviously earned the right to stay in the net, and we'll just take it one game at a time."

Jordan Staal didn't practice with the team on Monday, but Peters said it was simply maintenance for the Canes' workhorse center.

"He's played a lot of hockey, a lot of heavy, hard miles," Peters said. "Just a day to recover a little bit, and he'll be back at it tomorrow."

Tonight, the Canes will match up with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first of three times this season. At 8-7-3 (19 points), the Leafs sit just above the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference standings.

"A lot of skill. They play a good style of hockey. They work, they compete and they box out defensively," Peters said of the opponent. "We know what we're up against. It will be a good challenge."

CANESPR NOTES: The Hurricanes' penalty kill continues to hum along. It's 19-for-19 in the last nine games, and it ranks first in the league at 91.3 percent effectiveness. On the road, the Canes have allowed just two power-play goals in 29 shorthanded situations (93.1 percent). … The Canes have posted a 13-7-2 record in Toronto since the start of the 2003-04 season.




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