MAPLE LEAFS (19-23-5) at HURRICANES (23-19-6)
— SNET-O (HD)
— Toronto 5-4-1; Carolina 5-4-1.
— This is the second of four games against one another this season for the two Eastern Conference combatants. Carolina edged Toronto a month ago, 4-3, with the help of captain Eric Staal
, who collected two goals. Phil Kessel
of the Maple Leafs earned himself two goals, as well, in a losing effort.
— Both teams look to skate into the All-Star break -- which is two games away for both teams -- feeling good about their chance of breaking into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Maple Leafs will do so with a two-game road trip, while the Hurricanes match up with two of the Conference's lower-seeded teams, Toronto and the New York Islanders.
— Inconsistency has plagued the Leafs for much of the season, and the month of January has been no exception. An impressive four-game winning streak in the second week of the month was followed by a stretch in which the team has gone 1-3-1. Now, the Leafs have a chance to right the ship with back-to-back road games against the 'Canes and Tampa Bay, respectively. Coming off a tough, 4-1, loss to Washington Saturday night, the Leafs felt as though two points could’ve been theirs if not for missed chances.
"We missed empty nets, we had some great scoring opportunities in the first two periods," coach Ron Wilson said. "We could have and probably should have had the lead."
— A similar tale tells the story of the Hurricanes, at least of late. Despite the occasional mini winning streak being followed by a two-game losing streak, the 'Canes have been able to hold their head above water by playing solid hockey at home, going 5-1-1 in Raleigh in January. The chance to continue taking care of things at home stars Carolina in the face when the Leafs come to town.
— Carolina has been led by their version of the "Big Three," as Staal, rookie Jeff Skinner
and winger Tuomo Ruutu
have each collected points in three of their previous five games, while Toronto hopes Mikhail Grabovski
continues his stretch of goal scoring, as he’s posted three goals in his past four outings.
— Healthy lineups are expected to follow both clubs come Monday night.
— Always a factor in any game, penalty killing has served as the Achilles heel for both clubs which, incidentally, are 25th and 26th in the League, respectively, in that category with the Hurricanes clinging to a 78.4 percent conversion rate, while the Leafs are just behind with 78.1.
— With a win, the Hurricanes can narrow the gap between in and out of the playoffs to just one point, with another game left before the break.