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Hurricanes get road trip started against Maple Leafs

by Brian Hunter

HURRICANES (15-14-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (18-12-4)


Last 10: Carolina 3-6-1; Toronto 3-3-4

Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. The Hurricanes will be going for the sweep. Cam Ward made 41 saves in a 4-1 win in Toronto on Feb. 4, while Dan Ellis stopped 22 shots in a 3-1 victory in Carolina on Feb. 14. Jeff Skinner assisted on five goals in the two games.

Big story: The Hurricanes figure to start their third different goalie in as many games against the Maple Leafs, with Ellis (leg laceration) recently joining Ward (sprained MCL) on injured reserve. Justin Peters looks like the go-to guy until Ellis can return, while John Muse was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League as the backup.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: The term "four-point game" gets thrown around a lot, particularly in this shortened season where every game is intra-conference and has serious postseason implications, but there's no better illustration of it than Tuesday's game at PNC Arena. With the opportunity to close to within two points of first-place Winnipeg in the Southeast Division, Carolina instead dropped six points off the pace with a 4-1 loss, their sixth in a row. Jiri Tlusty's 14th goal of the season opened the scoring in the first, but the Hurricanes couldn't put another puck past Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

"We have to do it collectively," captain Eric Staal told the Raleigh News & Observer about breaking the skid. "I mean, we’ve done enough talking. We've done enough trying to figure it out. It takes us doing it collectively, doing the right things, doing your job and doing it better. It's clearly not good enough."

Maple Leafs: The fans in Toronto holding their breath probably won't exhale fully until Toronto is officially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004, but after Tuesday's 3-2 win over Florida, the Maple Leafs moved seven points ahead of the ninth-place Islanders in the Eastern Conference. They're just two points behind the Senators for third in the Northeast Division. Joffrey Lupul has three goals in two games since returning from suspension, including a pair in the first four minutes of the third period to turn the tide against the Panthers. Ben Scrivens also starred with 40 saves.

"I probably didn't expect this sort of start stats-wise, but I did put in a lot of work during the six weeks I was out," said Lupul, who missed time with a broken forearm. "I did a lot of extra work on my skating, and that's what feels different in my game now. I feel faster and my conditioning is pretty good."

Who's hot: Tlusty's goal was his first in seven games, but he's now just three from tying his single-season high, set in 79 games for the Hurricanes in the 2011-12 season. … Lupul has now six goals in four games for the Maple Leafs, dating back to his return from injury.

Injury report: In addition to Ward and Ellis, defensemen Justin Faulk (sprained MCL) and Bobby Sanguinetti (upper body) are on Carolina's injured reserve list. … Toronto defenseman John-Michael Liles (ankle) and forward Clarke MacArthur (upper body) are day-to-day, while forward Leo Komarov (upper body) is on injured reserve.

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