Preview: Carolina at Toronto
When: 7:30 PM ET, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
The Carolina Hurricanes are hanging around in the Eastern Conference playoff race and look to add another victory when they visit the injury-ravaged Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. The Hurricanes began Wednesday two points out of the second wild-card spot and are 5-2-2 in their last nine contests after knocking off Philadelphia 3-1 the previous night thanks to a huge effort in net from Cam Ward.
“He stole this game for us,” Carolina coach Bill Peters told reporters in reference to Ward, who is 7-1-4 in his last dozen decisions. “He allowed us to stay in the game and get our footing a little bit.” The Hurricanes, who are 5-0-1 in their last six meetings with Toronto, might split the goaltending duties between Ward and Eddie Lack with another huge game against Boston set for Friday. The Maple Leafs almost always put up a fight but are winless in four games (0-3-1) and have gone 1-6-1 in their last eight to fall into a tie for last in the league with Edmonton at 50 points. Toronto once again will be without its leading scorer as Leo Komarov (35 points) finishes serving his three-game suspension for an illegal hit.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Carolina), Sportsnet Ontario (Toronto)
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (28-23-10): Captain Eric Staal snapped his 16-game goal-scoring drought last time out and will attempt to build off that as his brother Jordan tries to stay red-hot. The younger Staal has recorded four goals and four assists during a six-game point streak and tops the team with 39 points overall as seven Hurricanes have notched at least 29. Victor Rask has registered three assists in four games and Jeff Skinner leads the club with 21 goals while defenseman Justin Faulk (34 points) returned from a leg injury against Philadelphia.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (20-28-10): Third-leading scorer Tyler Bozak (31 points), who has been out almost three weeks with a suspected concussion, is skating again and could return to the lineup soon. The talented center is among eight injured players for the Maple Leafs, and that has allowed several youngsters to get a good look while other veterans are showcased for Monday’s trade deadline. “I think it’s going to help us out in the long run,” 21-year-old defenseman Morgan Rielly (25 points) told reporters.
1. Toronto C Nazem Kadri is second on the team with 32 points and has notched four assists in his last two games.
2. Carolina C Joakim Nordstrom is riding a three-game goal-scoring streak and has recorded eight points in his last nine contests.
3. The Maple Leafs are 4-for-64 on the power play over their last 19 games and rank last in the league with a 14.5 percent success rate.
PREDICTION: Hurricanes 4, Maple Leafs 2