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Hurricanes keeping focus against red-hot Maple Leafs

by Kurt Dusterberg

MAPLE LEAFS (19-9-3) at HURRICANES (8-19-3)


RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes will try to snap a six-game losing streak when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday at PNC Arena.

With an 8-19-3 record, the season has been a disappointment, but the Hurricanes are not showing signs of losing focus.

"It's tough losing," said forward Nathan Gerbe. "But you can't let it creep into the guys' heads that No. 1, it's acceptable and No. 2, that you can't try. I think this group gives a good effort. We'd like to win a lot more, that's for sure."

Center Eric Staal did not participate in the morning skate. Carolina coach Bill Peters described Staal as "a little sore" but said he will be ready for the game.

The Maple Leafs (19-9-3) did not skate Thursday. They are riding a six-game winning streak following a 6-2 victory Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks. Toronto leads the NHL in scoring with 3.45 goals per game.

"They're a deep team and they score a lot of goals," Peters said. "They're explosive. They don't need many touches in the offensive zone to score."

As for the mental challenge of staying positive during a difficult season, Peters continues to handle his team with patience. The Hurricanes played reasonably well during the first four games of the losing skid before losing 5-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and 4-1 to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Carolina gave up two goals late in the third period to produce the final margin in Montreal.

"We've talked about [staying focused] a few times in the course of the year. Yesterday we talked about staying with it," Peters said. "Montreal was frustrating to a certain degree. Next thing you know, we get a little carried away and it's 3-1 and 4-1. We've got to manage the puck properly."

Here are the projected starting lineups:


James van RiemsdykTyler BozakPhil Kessel

Joffrey LupulPeter HollandDavid Clarkson

Daniel WinnikNazem KadriMike Santorelli

David BoothTrevor SmithRichard Panik

Dion PhaneufCody Franson

Morgan RiellyStephane Robidas

Korbinian HolzerJake Gardiner

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: None

Injured: Leo Komarov (concussion)


Nathan Gerbe - Eric Staal - Chris Terry

Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm

Zach Boychuk - Riley Nash - Patrick Dwyer

Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Justin Shugg

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk

Tim Gleason - Brett Bellemore

Ron Hainsey - Michal Jordan

Cam Ward

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: none

Injured: Jordan Staal (leg), Alexander Semin (lower body), Andrej Nestrasil (upper body), Jiri Tlusty (upper body), John-Michael Liles (upper body)

Status report: Jordan Staal took the place of his brother Eric at the morning skate. He continues to make progress toward his season debut, but a return date is still undetermined. "It's going to be interesting to see if he makes it back before Christmas or post-Christmas," Peters said. "If he's ready before Christmas, we'll play him. We will be realistic on how we judge him."... Peters said Semin, who skated Thursday, is close to returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury. Peters said he hopes to have Semin back in time to play back-to-back games with the New York Rangers this weekend. … The Maple Leafs on Thursday assigned forward Brandon Kozun to Toronto of the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Van Riemsdyk has a five-game points streak (three goals, four assists) …Kessel has six goals and 11 points in his past nine games … Bernier has allowed six goals in winning his past four starts.

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