NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, January 31st (All times eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (20-24-8) at Carolina Hurricanes (25-24-4), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes will continue to try and string together some success tonight when they play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the RBC Center.
Carolina leads the Southeast Division, but has just 54 points on the season. That is the fewest amount for any division leader in the NHL, and the Hurricanes have just a two-point edge over second-place Atlanta.
However, the Hurricanes have won three of their last four games after dropping four straight, including a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Cam Ward allowed a goal just over a minute into the first period, but didn't allow another puck to get past him the rest of the night, shutting out the Rangers for the game's final 58 minutes and 58 seconds. Ward ended with 34 saves on the night.
Sergei Samsonov, Rod Brind'Amour and Trevor Letowski all scored goals for Carolina. Samsonov now has three goals and five assists in nine games with Carolina since being acquired off re-entry waivers on January 8 from Chicago. He had only four assists in 23 games with the Blackhawks this year.
Carolina closes out a three-game homestand tonight and is 1-1-0 on the residency so far. The Hurricanes are 12-11-2 as the host this year and kick off a five-game road trip in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Toronto is also trying to go on a turnaround of its own, and tried to shake things up by firing general manger John Ferguson last Tuesday and replacing him on an interim basis with Cliff Fletcher.
However, the Maple Leafs have gone just 1-2-0 since the move and their 48 points on the season are second worst in the East, ahead of only Tampa Bay's 45 points.
Toronto was last in action on Tuesday, and lost to St. Louis, 3-2. Jason Blake recorded a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs, who have dropped two straight and three of four overall. Matthew Stajan also scored, Darcy Tucker had two assists and Vesa Toskala allowed three goals on 19 shots in defeat.
Carlo Colaiacovo returned to the lineup after missing the last nine games with a bruised right knee. However, Toronto is still without Darryl Boyce, Alex Steen and Alexei Ponikarovsky due to shoulder injuries.
Also, the club announced on Wednesday that Chad Kilger did not accompany the team to Carolina and will not play tonight due to personal reasons.
The Maple Leafs are 9-15-3 on the road this year and will try to improve on that mark before returning home to host Ottawa on Saturday.
Carolina won its first two games of the season against Toronto, including a 7-1 beating on October 9, but then dropped a 5-4 test on January 15. The Maple Leafs have won five of their last eight versus the Hurricanes, but have lost three of five in Carolina.
01/31 10:41:12 ET