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Hurricanes back home to face red-hot Leafs

by Tal Pinchevsky

MAPLE LEAFS (8-5-0) at HURRICANES (7-4-1)


Last 10: Toronto 6-4-0, Carolina 7-2-1

Season series: This is the second of three meetings between two teams that faced off Feb. 4 in Toronto in a game the Hurricanes won, 4-1. Carolina won the 2011-12 season series 3-0-1 and has gone 15-5-1 against Toronto since the 2007-08 campaign.

Big story: Both teams stumbled somewhat in the opening weeks of the season, only to find their footing lately. The Maple Leafs are riding a four-game win streak in which they're averaging more than four goals while the Hurricanes have gone 4-0-1 in their last five, allowing them to take over first place in the Southeast Division.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Their recent loss to Carolina dropped their record to 4-5-0 for the season, causing some panic in Leafs Nation. But the team hasn't lost since, posting back-to-back 3-2 wins over Washington and Winnipeg before dismantling Montreal 6-0 at home last Saturday.

Hosting the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, the Leafs got goals from Colton Orr and Matt Frattin just 28 seconds apart early in the middle period to take a 3-1 lead. While starting goaltender James Reimer was forced to leave the game moments later with a lower-body injury, Clarke MacArthur and James van Riemsdyk padded the Toronto lead and backup Ben Scrivens made 32 saves to preserve the 5-2 victory.

"My first thoughts were concern for James. He's a friend and a teammate and you never want to see anyone get hurt," Scrivens said. "You've just got to get your mind going and just try to get yourself ready to make that first save."

Hurricanes: Like Toronto, Carolina suffered through an inconsistent January, but the Hurricanes may have turned the corner in the midst of a season-long six-game road trip. After opening the trip with a 5-3 loss in Philadelphia, the team went 4-0-1, completing it in New Jersey on Tuesday night against the Atlantic-leading Devils.

Coming into the game winners of five straight, the Devils opened the scoring late in the first period when Ilya Kovalchuk's slap shot beat Cam Ward on a New Jersey power play. Jussi Jokinen and Patrick Dwyer responded for Carolina in the second before Ryan Carter evened the score just 1:34 into the final period. Despite being heavily outshot by the Devils in the third, Jiri Tlusty broke the tie midway through the period before icing a 4-2 victory with an empty-net goal late in regulation.

"I think we're starting to find ways to win, and staying with the game plan," coach Kirk Muller said. "Last season, when teams would push harder, we'd get away from it. But we're buying in this season."

Who's hot: Leafs defenseman Cody Franson has provided an unlikely offensive spark with five points (all assists) in his current four-game point streak. Van Riemsdyk has four goals in his last four games and linemate Phil Kessel has seven points in his last four games. … After failing to score in his first nine games this season, Tlusty has five goals in his last three games. He has benefitted from playing on a line with captain Eric Staal, who has 16 points in his current 10-game point streak.

Injury report: Reimer remains out with a sprained knee and the Leafs learned that Frattin is also out with a knee injury. Forwards Joffrey Lupul (broken forearm) and Mike Brown (upper body) are out, along with defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (hip) are sidelined as well. … For the Hurricanes, Tuomo Ruutu is on injured reserve following hip surgery and defenseman Joni Pitkanen is questionable with a lower-body injury.

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