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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Hurricanes

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A lot has changed since the Toronto Maple Leafs visited the Carolina Hurricanes in mid-December.

When the Maple Leafs came to Raleigh on Dec. 18, they were riding a six-game winning streak, sitting comfortably in a Stanley Cup Playoff spot with a 19-9-3 record.

Toronto lost 4-1 to Carolina that night, beginning the stretch of play that has resulted in a 4-21-2 mark.

In the two months since then, the Maple Leafs haven't found a solution to turn their fortunes around.

"If we had the answer to that, I'm sure we wouldn't be on the slide we've been on," Maple Leafs forward Daniel Winnik said. "I don't think we've played bad hockey. I just think the goals have dried up for us."

Center Nazem Kadri echoed Winnik's assessment, suggesting the Maple Leafs simply couldn't slow down the slide.

"Just that snowball effect a little bit, and momentum wasn't on our side," Kadri said. "That's in the past, and we've got to look at the present and understand that [Carolina] is going to come out as hard as they can. They always seem to play well against us, so we've got to come out right from the puck drop and hopefully get one early."

The Hurricanes have lost three of four (1-3-0) after a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

"We need to be better," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "We need better production and better play away from the puck. We've got some young guys looking a little tired, more mentally than physically, and we want them to snap out of it."

Against the Maple Leafs, the Hurricanes will pair John-Michael Liles and Tim Gleason on defense. Last season, the two defensemen were traded for each other, with Gleason heading to Toronto. After his contract was bought out by Toronto at the end of the season, Gleason re-signed in Carolina.

"We crossed paths on airplanes," Liles said. "We talked a little about [playing in Toronto], discussed a few things and shared some insights, but now it's in the past and we don't talk about it too much. You try not to think about what the past holds. You just go out and play. That's what Gleason and I are going to do."

Here are the projected lineups.


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Daniel Winnik - Nazem Kadri - Richard Panik

Leo Komarov - Olli Jokinen - David Clarkson

David Booth - Peter Holland - Brandon Kozun

Morgan Rielly - Roman Polak

Jake Gardiner - Korbinian Holzer

Petter Granberg - Stephane Robidas

James Reimer

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Andrew MacWilliam

Injured: Joffrey Lupul (upper body), Dion Phaneuf (hand), Trevor Smith (upper body)


Eric Staal - Jordan Staal - Jiri Tlusty

Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm

Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Andrej Nestrasil

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk

Tim Gleason - John-Michael Liles

Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore

Cam Ward

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Patrick Dwyer, Chris Terry

Injured: Ryan Murphy (lower body)

Status report: Toronto called up MacWilliam, but coach Peter Horachek did not say if the 24-year-old would make his NHL debut. "We just want to make sure we're in a good place if one of the other guys can't go," he said. … Dwyer will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season, along with Terry. "There's two guys who come out who don't deserve to in essence, but that's the way it is," Peters said.

Who's hot: Kadri had two assists in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. … Nestrasil has two goals and two assists in his past three games. … Skinner has three goals in his past four games.

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