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Maple Leafs look to end home skid against Hurricanes

by Brian Hunter
HURRICANES (30-31-15) at MAPLE LEAFS (33-34-9)


Last 10:
Carolina 5-4-1; Toronto 3-5-2

Season Series: Fourth and final meeting. All three previous matchups have been one-goal affairs won by the home team. The last two have gone to overtime, with Tim Connolly netting the winner for the Maple Leafs on Dec. 13 and Eric Staal getting revenge for the Hurricanes on Dec. 29.

Big Story:
Neither team has been eliminated yet, but at this point they're battling mostly for draft positioning and individual jobs for next season. A .500 record (at least in terms of points percentage) is also at stake, and the winning team Tuesday night will achieve that with five games left to play.

Team Scope:

A four-game winning streak gave Carolina one last-gasp opportunity to sneak back into the fringes of the Eastern Conference playoff race, but the Hurricanes suffered a damaging loss to the Blue Jackets on Friday and followed that up with a 5-4 loss Saturday to the Red Wings. In a battle of teams that met 10 years ago in the Stanley Cup Final, the Canes built a 4-1 lead behind a pair of goals by Jiri Tlusty only to see the Wings come storming back over the final 24 minutes. They fired 50 shots on Cam Ward.

"We left our goaltender out to dry a lot," said Chad LaRose, who along with Jamie McBain also scored for Carolina. "It could have been 10-4."

Maple Leafs:
Shootouts have decided each of the last two games for Toronto against a pair of Atlantic Division squads in the Devils and Rangers. The Maple Leafs let 2-0 and 3-1 leads slip away Friday against New Jersey before connecting on all three attempts in the penalty-shot tiebreaker. They weren't as fortunate on Saturday. Cody Franson and Joey Crabb gave them one-goal leads the Rangers promptly erased. They fell behind in the third, but Connolly quickly struck to force overtime. Connolly also scored in the shootout, but the Rangers got a pair and dealt the Leafs a 4-3 defeat.

"We're trying to win every game regardless of whether we get booed or we get cheered," said center David Steckel, who assisted on the goals by Crabb and Connolly. "We had that mentality tonight but fell a point short."

Who's Hot:
Staal has recorded a multi-point effort in three of the Hurricanes' last four games, totaling 4 goals and 3 assists over that span. … Crabb and Steckel each have 1 goal and 2 assists over the last two games for the Maple Leafs.

Injury Report:
Carolina has been without defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (lower body) and forward Andreas Nodl (concussion-like symptoms). … Toronto forwards Matt Frattin (sprained ankle) and Clarke MacArthur (upper body) are day-to-day. Forwards Joffrey Lupul (separated shoulder), Mike Brown (bruised thigh) and Nikolai Kulemin (broken finger) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
The 45 saves for Ward was only his third-highest total this season -- he had a 47-save shutout Feb. 2 against the Bruins, and stopped 46 shots March 6 in an overtime win over the Capitals. … Phil Kessel, who ranks fifth in the League with 77 points, saw a season-high 25:06 of ice time against the Rangers.

Puck Drop:
It's been more than seven weeks since Toronto last tasted victory at Air Canada Centre. Since a 6-3 win over Edmonton on Feb. 6, the Maple Leafs are 0-6-3 on home ice. They host Philadelphia and Buffalo after Tuesday to complete a four-game homestand and play their final game at the ACC against Tampa Bay next week.
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