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Hurricanes aim to slow down surging Maple Leafs

by Jon Lane /

HURRICANES (2-2-3) vs. MAPLE LEAFS (6-1-0)


Season series: The Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs meet for the first time in 2013-14. The teams split two games last season.

Big story: The Maple Leafs improved to 6-1-0 with their 4-1 win Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild, which continues their best start since Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark led them to 10 wins in their first 10 games in 1993-94. Remarkable about the Leafs' success is they're doing it without forward David Clarkson (suspension), defenseman Mark Fraser (lower-body injury) and forward Nikolai Kulemin (ankle injury). They welcome the Hurricanes, who ended a winless three-game homestand Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: After the Hurricanes spotted the Blackhawks an early two-goal lead, goalie Cam Ward (34 saves) kept them in the game and the team rallied with a pair in the third period en route to earning a point. Alexander Semin began the comeback with a rebound goal off Eric Staal's shot with 16:06 left. Ron Hainsey's blast from the blue line went between defenseman Michal Rozsival's legs on its way past Blackhawks goalie Carl Crawford to tie it with 7:27 remaining.

''I really like the way our leaders took charge [Tuesday] and kept everyone composed, and we went out and had a good second and third period, climbed back into it and tied the game,'' coach Kirk Muller said.

Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs defeated the Wild at Air Canada Centre despite being outshot 37-14. Although Toronto sits atop the Atlantic Division with an Eastern Conference-best 12 points, the players and coaches understand there's a lot more work to be done.

"We understand that 6-1 is just a stat," coach Randy Carlyle said Wednesday after practice. "We need to play better."

Who's hot: Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games, and leads the team in assists (five), points (seven), plus-minus (plus-5) and shots on goal (28). … Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer made 36 saves in the win against the Wild. Thanks to the formidable tandem of Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, the Leafs' 2.29 goals-against average ranked fifth in the League entering Wednesday night.

Injury report: The Hurricanes placed goalie Anton Khudobin (lower body) on injured reserve Monday. Khudobin joined defenseman Tim Gleason (concussion), forward Elias Lindholm (upper body) and defenseman Joni Pitkanen (broken heel; out for the season) on the sidelines. Gleason will begin to skate during the road trip. … Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk (upper body) participated in the first half of practice Wednesday. He's a possibility to play Thursday after missing the game against the Wild. Fraser (lower body) is on long-term injured reserve. Kulemin remains out with a bone chip in his ankle.


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