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Game Day Preview

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (25-20-4-1) at Carolina Hurricanes (17-23-6-5).

TIME: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The last time the Carolina Hurricanes faced the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Southeast Division upstarts were headed to the Stanley Cup finals. Things aren't going nearly as well for Carolina now.

Seeking just their second win in 12 games, the Hurricanes try to hand the Maple Leafs a season-high fourth straight loss when the clubs meet at the RBC Center.

Alex Mogilny may play in Carolina.
Graig Abel Photography
After beating New Jersey and Montreal in the first two rounds of last season's playoffs, the Hurricanes needed six games, including three overtime wins, to eliminate Toronto in the conference finals and advance to their first cup finals.

Carolina challenged for first place in the mediocre Southeast during the first three months of this season, but a 2-11-1-2 skid has dropped it into 13th place in the conference.

The Hurricanes did play better over the weekend in a home-and-home series with the Florida Panthers, posting a 3-1 home victory Friday followed by a 3-2 loss in overtime Saturday.

Rookie Jeff Heerema and Ron Francis scored in the series finale for Carolina, loser of seven straight at home before Friday's win.

"Coming into the series we knew we had to play better," Francis said. "We did last night, but you win one, of course, you want to win them both. It's disappointing we didn't get the two, but certainly the effort was there."

Generating offense continues to be a major problem for the Hurricanes, as they have scored three goals or fewer in 11 straight games. Only Buffalo, with 108, has scored fewer goals in the East.

Although Toronto is in much better position than Carolina, the Maple Leafs also are struggling, particularly offensively.

They tied a season high with their third straight loss Saturday, 3-0 to the Colorado Avalanche. Toronto was shut out for the second consecutive game.

"We have one goal in the last three games. That it makes it very tough on the goalies," Alyn McCauley said. "We have to generate more offense, but at the same time I think defense is the bigger issue. We gave up a lot of opportunities."

Playing without leading scorer Alexander Mogilny the past two games hasn't helped Toronto's offense or its power play, scoreless in its last 30 opportunities.

Mogilny, nursing a sore back, is not expected to play Wednesday.

"I'm looking forward to going on this trip, but there is no guarantee I'll be back before the All-Star break," Mogilny said.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 27):
Maple Leafs - 55 points, 3rd place, 16 PB, Northeast Division.
Hurricanes - 45 points, 4th place, 11 PB, Southeast Division.

Maple Leafs - Mogilny, 21 goals, 29 assists and 50 points; Tie Domi, 99 PIM.
Hurricanes - Jeff O'Neill, 19 goals and 39 points; Rod Brind'Amour, 23 assists; Sean Hill, 99 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 27):
Maple Leafs - Power play: 17.7 percent (40 for 226), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.3 percent (219 for 251), 2nd.

Hurricanes - Power play: 16.0 percent (45 for 282), 15th. Penalty killing: 83.5 percent (223 for 267), 14th.

Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (21-14-3, 5 SO, 2.15 GAA); Trevor Kidd (3-6-1, 3.44).
Hurricanes - Kevin Weekes (10-13-4, 2, 2.39); Arturs Irbe (7-15-2, 2.93).

2001-02 SEASON SERIES: 2-2-0.

LAST MEETING: May 28; Hurricanes 2-1, OT. At Toronto, Martin Gelinas scored 8:05 into the extra period in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals as Carolina advanced to face the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals.

Maple Leafs - 9-11-2-1 on the road;
Hurricanes - 9-10-5-3 at home.
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