NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, December 29th (All times Eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (18-14-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (12-20-6), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to rebound from a poor defensive effort when they continue a four-game road trip with tonight's test against the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center.
Toronto had won two straight before dropping a 5-3 decision Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, who scored three times during a span of less than five minutes in the second period to take control of the game. Former Maple Leaf forward Kris Versteeg capped the burst, giving the Panthers a 4-1 edge just 6:55 into the second period.
Mikhail Grabovski scored two goals and Dion Phaneuf netted the other marker for Toronto, which was trying to win two straight for the first time since Nov. 22-27. It was the second time in two meetings this year that Florida torched the Leafs for five goals, as the Panthers also posted a 5-1 victory in Toronto on Nov. 8.
"We had a couple of real major mistakes by the defense," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.
Toronto goaltender James Reimer faced only eight shots, but was pulled after allowing Florida's third goal of the game at 4:13 of the second. Jonas Gustavsson, who last started a game on Dec. 17, stopped 16-of-18 shots in relief.
The Leafs, who are seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference, are 10-9-0 as the visiting team this season. Toronto will cap its swing Saturday in Winnipeg before returning home for four straight at the Air Canada Centre.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes, who are ahead of only the New York Islanders in the East, also had a two-game winning streak halted in their last trip to the ice. Carolina was coming off home wins over Ottawa and New Jersey, but was dealt a 4-2 setback Tuesday in Pittsburgh. James Neal recorded a goal and one assist as the Penguins used a three-goal third period to defeat the Hurricanes at CONSOL Energy Center.
Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Brent scored for the Hurricanes, while backup goaltender Justin Peters took the loss despite making a career-best 48 saves. Regular starter Cam Ward is expected back between the pipes tonight.
The Hurricanes have won two straight and three of their last four games at home, but are still just 8-10-2 as the host this year.
The Maple Leafs and Hurricanes have split two meetings this year, with each club earning a victory on home ice. Toronto has won three of four overall in the series, but Carolina has taken three of four in Raleigh.
12/29 10:52:48 ET