The Toronto Maple Leafs are not only trying to recover from a tough loss, they're also trying to recover from the loss of one of their top defenseman.
Life without Bryan McCabe for the next six weeks begins Tuesday for the Maple Leafs, who continue their season-high, seven-game road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes.
McCabe, who had four goals and 12 points in 27 games, underwent surgery Monday to repair three broken bones in his left hand and will miss at least six weeks. The injury occurred midway through the third period of Saturday's 4-1 loss to Montreal, when Canadiens left wing Andrei Kostitsyn checked McCabe awkwardly into the boards. Two days later, Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice was still livid.
"Yeah. It wasn't dirty like spear you in the chin dirty, like a two-hander over the head dirty, but he reached from behind and pulled him back and he broke three bones in his hand," Maurice told the Maple Leafs' official Web site. "It's not a clean play."
McCabe had missed just 29 games total in his six-plus seasons with the Leafs (14-13-6) prior to the injury. One of the game's best offensive defensemen, McCabe had 34 goals and 125 points in the first two seasons after the lockout, and was logging more than 26 minutes of ice time per game.
"There aren't many 30-minute players around," said Tomas Kaberle, McCabe's partner on the blue line.
To fill McCabe's spot on the roster, the Maple Leafs recalled Anton Stralman from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. He played seven games with the Maple Leafs earlier this season before being sent down, and the 21-year-old likely will be paired with Pavel Kubina until Carlo Colaiacovo is healthy enough to return to the team.
Colaiacovo is recovering from knee surgery and has just begun skating with the Leafs. Maurice isn't optimistic he will rejoin the team before the end of the road trip, which also makes stops at Tampa Bay, Florida, the New York Islanders and Philadelphia.
Carolina (17-14-3) ended a three-game losing streak with a 6-5 shootout victory over Philadelphia on Saturday and is now trying to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 10 and 12 at Atlanta and Florida, respectively. Former Flyer Rod Brind'Amour scored the winning goal in the shootout, banking a shot off Flyers goaltender Martin Biron and the crossbar.
"It's a good win, period, no matter who you're playing," said Brind'Amour, who had just one goal and one assist his previous eight games. "We need wins desperately. We'll take them any way we can."
Despite their recent slump, the Hurricanes lead the Southeast Division by five points. Center Eric Staal, who tied Corey Stillman for the team lead with his 16th goal in Saturday's victory, has seven goals and eight assists in 13 career games versus Toronto.
Staal had a goal and an assist in Carolina's 7-1 rout at Toronto on Oct. 9. The Hurricanes reeled off seven unanswered goals after McCabe had staked the Maple Leafs to a lead 4:21 into the game.
The Maple Leafs may turn to goaltender Andrew Raycroft for this game since Vesa Toskala, who allowed all seven goals in the first meeting between the teams, is 0-3-0 with a 4.53 goals-against average and .842 save percentage lifetime versus the Hurricanes. Raycroft, though, is not much better with a 3-5-1 record and 2.73 GAA.