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Gameday: Maple Leafs vs. Hurricanes

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Sundays are for hockey.

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

The Hurricanes will hold a 10:30 a.m. morning skate at PNC Arena, and we'll be there to bring you the latest.

Last updated: 6:25 p.m.

6:25 p.m.

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

Video: Tools to Victory: TOR vs. CAR 

5:40 p.m.

Justin Faulk, Sebastian Aho and Joakim Nordstrom provided insights after the Hurricanes' morning skate today.

Video: Justin Faulk: "Two teams trying to do the same thing"

Video: Sebastian Aho: "Everyone is mentally ready to play"

Video: Joakim Nordstrom: "Got to come in prepared"

11:40 a.m.

The Hurricanes held an optional morning skate today. Justin Faulk, who missed Saturday's practice with illness, was among the participants. He's expected to be in the Canes lineup tonight, which should remain mostly the same with one exception: forward Phil Di Giuseppe, who will be recalled today pending Ty Rattie's waiver status, will draw into the lineup. Head coach Bill Peters didn't not concretely say who will come out.

"We'll make a decision here once we get feedback on the guys who were out this morning," he said. "We'll make sure everyone is 100 percent healthy and then come up with a lineup."

Here's more from the head coach.

On what has changed since Carolina and Toronto first met in November: "Both teams are better now. They've grown as teams. Toronto now is a little quicker. They're playing very fast, and their young guys are acclimated real well to the league. They play with a lot of pace and skill."

On what has allowed Sebastian Aho to thrive as a rookie: "Real good hockey sense. Competitive kid. ... He's got a real good skillset to him and can play multiple positions."

On if he is surprised by how well Aho is playing: "We knew how good he was. ... We're not surprised. He's more competitive than I thought. I wouldn't have known that until getting him into a competitive situation to see how he reacts. He's a very competitive, talented player."

On the special teams battle: "No. 1 power play against the No. 1 penalty kill, so it will be a fair fight."

Tweet from @MSmithCanes: Justin Faulk (illness) among the #Canes participating in today's optional morning skate. #TORvsCAR

6:00 a.m.

The Carolina Hurricanes knew it wouldn't be easy coming off the bye week - one look at the record of teams in their first game back from break illustrates that point fairly well, and the team lived it in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.

Now is the challenge of the game after.

"The ugly part is guys said they couldn't skate in game two. It took a while. That's what everyone says," head coach Bill Peters said after a Saturday practice at Raleigh Center Ice. "We skated them as much as we could here today, we'll play and we'll be just like every other team getting through it."

Looking back at Friday's game, the Hurricanes were able to salvage a point out of what was otherwise a limp 65 minutes.

"I thought we got better as we went along. Everything guys talked about who have been through it came true: hard to skate, hard to make plays, hard to have any rhythm to your game. Guys were struggling," Peters said. "It's a tough situation."

Problem areas have been identified, though, and hopefully corrected heading into the Canes' second match of a crucial five-game homestand.

"We've got to make sure we manage the puck better and execute with the puck better. Our execution put us in trouble defensively," Peters said. "Some of the odd men rushes were a result of us having the puck and turning it over. You think you're on offense and you are, and the next thing you know you turn it over and there's an odd-man rush going the other way. Those are tough to defend."

The Hurricanes will also be looking to generate more consistent offense; three goals combined in their last three games isn't going to get the job done. So, the team will recall winger Phil Di Giuseppe from Charlotte, and he'll be inserted into the lineup. Di Giuseppe has been with Charlotte since early December, and he's posted 10 goals and 10 assists in 33 games with the Checkers this season.

Who will come out of the lineup when Di Giuseppe draws back in has yet to be decided, according to Peters.

"We're going to wait and see," he explained. "A little bug going through here and a couple guys sore."

Illness also struck on the blue line again. After Brett Pesce missed Friday's morning skate (but was able to play that night), Justin Faulk missed Saturday's practice. Peters is optimistic about his All-Star defenseman's status for Sunday's tilt.

Tonight's opponents, the Toronto Maple Leafs, are currently the hunted. The Leafs occupy the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, a highly-coveted position sought out by just about every team below them in the standings - and they're all, Hurricanes included, within theoretical striking distance. Toronto was doubled up 6-3 by the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, and a Canes victory on Sunday could narrow the gap to five points.

CANESPR NOTES: The Hurricanes are 6-0-1 against the Maple Leafs in the last seven meetings between the two teams in Raleigh. … The Hurricanes own the league's best penalty kill (86.4 percent), while the Maple Leafs sport the league's best power play (23.3 percent).




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