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Maple Leafs wary as struggling Hurricanes hit town

by Eric Goodman
HURRICANES (9-18-4) at MAPLE LEAFS (15-11-3)


Last 10:
Carolina 2-7-1; Toronto 5-4-1

Season Series:
This is the second of four meetings. Carolina took the first game at home with a 3-2 victory back on Nov. 20.

Big Story: The Hurricanes haven't had much luck since new coach Kirk Muller took over on Nov. 28. Carolina will seek just its second win Tuesday in its seventh game with Muller behind the bench. Toronto had won three straight toward the end of November, but has since dropped four of its last five games.

Team Scope:

While the Hurricanes embraced the need for a systematic change by bringing Muller into the mix, they're still waiting to see the improvements. Carolina has been outscored by a total of 25-19 with Muller as head coach and it is desperate to turn it around as Tuesday marks the end of four-game road trip in which the Canes are 1-2-0.

Carolina would like an improved effort against Toronto when compared to Friday's 4-2 loss at Winnipeg in which the Hurricanes couldn't overcome a 4-0 second-period deficit. While Justin Faulk and Brandon Sutter managed goals in the third, it was simply a case of too little, too late for the struggling Canes.

"The guys don't quit," Muller said. "They keep battling through it. But it's the old saying: catch-up hockey is losing hockey."

Maple Leafs: Toronto returns to Air Canada Centre on Tuesday hoping to improve upon a 1-4-2 record over its last seven home games, as well as trying to break free from a two-game losing streak.

Coach Ron Wilson would like to see his club overcome a 4-2 loss at Washington on Friday in which the Leafs surrendered four power-play goals.

"Five-on-five, I thought we controlled, and at times dominated the game," Wilson said. "Bad penalties, undisciplined penalties did us in tonight, simple as that."

Who's Hot: For Carolina, captain Eric Staal has 3 goals and 9 points over his last seven games. … The Leafs' Phil Kessel has a three-game points streak, tallying 2 goals and 2 assists over that span.

Injury Report:
As of Monday, Carolina forward Jeff Skinner was out with flu-like symptoms, according to the Raleigh News and Observer. Backup goalie Brian Boucher (lower body) is on injured reserve, while defensemen Jay Harrison (upper body) and Joni Pitkanen (upper body) remain listed as day-to-day. … Toronto will be without Matt Lombardi (dislocated shoulder) and Mike Komisarek (broken arm).
Stat Pack:
Staal has been solid against Toronto over his career, totaling 12 goals and 29 points in 27 games.

Puck Drop: While the Hurricanes haven't found much success this season, the Maple Leafs aren't taking their opponent lightly.

"I don't think you can take anybody for granted in this League," Wilson told following Monday's practice. "So we're preparing like I think we should and we have to know that Carolina, probably for the first time with a new coach, has had a couple of days of good practice. I think (Muller's) team will be pretty prepared (Tuesday)." 

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