Hurricanes-Maple Leafs Preview
The offensively challenged Toronto Maple Leafs are looking forward to getting back home after a brutal four-game road trip.
Looking to snap its longest skid of the season, Toronto tries to pick up a rare win over the last-place Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night.
The Maple Leafs (22-21-3) have dropped 12 of 15, a stretch that began with a 4-1 road loss to Carolina on Dec. 18. All but three of those games have come on the road, where Toronto is averaging 2.2 goals compared to 3.6 at home.
"I think it will be really good (to get back home)," interim coach Peter Horachek said. "We’ve been on the road a lot, but we can’t make excuses. We’re going to have to prop ourselves back up like we have before."
The Maple Leafs were outscored 12-1 on a winless four-game trek. They lost 3-0 to Brian Elliott and St. Louis on Saturday, managing only 12 shots over the final two periods after recording 15 in the opening 20 minutes.
"It’s frustrating," Jonathan Bernier said after stopping 30 shots. "We go back home after we score one goal and get no points. I know I have got to be better and make that extra save that keeps us in the game."
Toronto has been limited to two or fewer goals in dropping seven of eight in 2015, the lone exception being a 5-2 home victory over Columbus on Jan. 9. The Maple Leafs have won 14 of 19 at Air Canada Centre.
"We have to just get through this tough time. We’re going to have rely on leadership to step up, we’re going to have to buckle down," Horachek said. "We are a team that has to be at our strongest now. We’re going to have to be mentally tougher."
Toronto has dropped seven of nine and 13 of 18 to the Hurricanes. Defenseman Dion Phaneuf had the only Leafs goal Dec. 18 as Carolina’s Cam Ward made 25 saves, giving him a 6-1-1 mark and 1.86 goals-against average in his last eight starts in the series.
Ward is likely to return to the net after watching Anton Khudobin stop 30 shots in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Ottawa, Carolina’s second road victory in 10 games. Justin Faulk tied it early in the third period and Nathan Gerbe notched the go-ahead goal with just under 6 minutes left.
Brad Malone also scored as the Hurricanes (15-25-5) improved to 5-2-1 in January.
"I think we’ve been playing really good hockey the last month and a half, two months," Gerbe told the league’s official website. "Unfortunately, our record doesn’t show that. We’re playing good. We’ve just got to keep that going. We know we can compete with a lot of teams in this league."
Carolina’s Eric Staal had two assists in the last matchup with Toronto, giving him 39 points in a 32-game stretch against the Maple Leafs. He’s tied with Faulk for the team lead with 26 points despite coming up empty in the last three contests.
The Hurricanes have killed all 33 of their opponents’ power-play opportunities over the last 13 games. The Maple Leafs have scored 12 goals in 39 chances on the man advantage in an 11-game stretch at home.