Game #21 Preview - Hurricanes vs Leafs

 

With an opportunity to take back both sole place of first in the North East Division and the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs (11-7-2) will face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes (6-11-3). Carolina is off to a horrible start to the season, and currently occupy 14th position in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes have gone 2-8-0 in their last ten games, making them an opponent that the shorthanded Leafs need to take advantage of. In defeating the Washington Capitals yesterday the Leafs were able to contribute to all-world talent Alex Ovechkin’s struggles. Tonight (or this afternoon to be more specific) the Leafs will take on another struggling all-world talent in Eric Staal. The former Cup Champion and Gold Medal winning Olympian has only 8 points through his teams first 20 games of the season and is carrying around a hideous -18. For the Leafs to be successful they will need to stay clear of Staal and hope he continues his slumbers for at least one more game. Tonight also marks a bit of reunion for many Hurricanes as former Leaf coach Paul Maurice will ice Tomas Kaberle, Tim Brent, Jiri Tlusty and Alex Ponikarovsky against their former team.

Toronto will ice the same lineup as last night, except for one change. Goalie Ben Scrivens will take over from the spectacular Jonas Gustavsson. Scrivens had seemingly become the de-facto #1 keeper in James Reimer’s absence. However a poor showing tonight coupled with Gustavsson’s stellar performance last night may cause another shift in the Leafs goaltending carrousel. Leaf winger Nikolai Kulemin continues to struggle with only two goals so far this season, and none since October 22. Perhaps his old ‘friend’ Tim Gleason can provide him some motivation.

Lineups

Leafs 

Forwards

Lupul – Bozak – Kessel

Kulemin – Connolly – Frattin

Steckel – Colborne – Crabb

Orr – Dupuis – Rosehill

Defense 

Gunnarsson – Phaneuf

Liles – Gardiner

Schenn – Franson

Goalies 

Scrivens

Gustavsson

Hurricanes 

Forwards 

LaRose – Staal – Stewart

Skinner – Jokinene – Ruutu

Ponikarovsky – Sutter – Dalpe

Tlusty – Brent – Boychuk

Defense

Allen – Gleason

Kaberle  - McBain

Harrison – Faulk

Goalies

Ward

Boucher

Players to Watch 

Leafs: Tim Connolly – The big summer free agent acquisition has 6 points through his first 8 games with the Leafs, but can he consistently stay in the lineup? With the Leafs playing back to back games the balanced scoring that emerged last night needs to be on display again tonight for the Leafs to record the W. Connolly is the key member of that secondary unit and the Leafs are hoping his playmaking can kick Kulemin into gear.

Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner  - The super sophmore picking right up from where he left off last season. Carolina’s leading scorer has 18 points in 20 games this season, and his skill set is one that is capable of exploiting most defenses in this league. Toronto will have their hands full with the 20 year old sniper.

Game Time: 5:00 at the RBC Centre in Raleigh. TV – LeafsTV. Radio – AM640.