The Carolina Hurricanes are taking a four-game winning streak built at home on the road Tuesday when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The road has been a challenge for the Hurricanes this season. They are 2-3-4 in away games while the Maple Leafs are 7-2-0 at Air Canada Centre.
“This game that we're playing right now can go on the road and win,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “It's a good team game. It's four lines deep.”
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Carolina will find out how much it has improved after starting the season slowly. The game against Toronto is the opener of a three-game trip and starts a stretch of nine games of its next 11 on the road.
“If we continue to play the way we've been playing, we all know we can play with anybody in this league,” said defenseman Noah Hanifin, who scored a goal in the 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
The Hurricanes lost the opener of a five-game homestand 4-2 to the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 10 before defeating the Washington Capitals, the San Jose Sharks, the Montreal Canadiens and the Jets.
“It's fun to win,” Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner said. “Guys come to the rink, and everyone is contributing. You can take pride in that and build on the confidence in our game. We've talked about it a lot, but this homestand was big for us. We wanted to pick up as many points as we could. We did a good job tonight closing it out, and now our job is to take it on the road and continue that brand of hockey we've been building towards.”
The Hurricanes will not catch the Maple Leafs by surprise.
“I don't need to be reminded, I watch the league pretty close,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “I have a pretty good handle on that. I watched (Carolina) last night, too, and thought they were outstanding. It will be really tight tomorrow, they can really skate, they have a good, young team, the back end moves and the goalie (Cam Ward) is playing well. So we'll have our hands full.”
Ward had a 1.41 goals-against average on the five-game homestand and a .947 save percentage.
“But every team in the league is taking drastic steps so our guys have to take big steps and you have to have the youth growth as well,” Babcock said. “Not only do they have to be better structurally as a team, they have to get better as players.”
The Maple Leafs are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday and are expected to use the same lineup on Tuesday.
“I think we're happy with the way we battled there at the end,” Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said. “We were right there the whole game, one shot difference. To hang around that long and keep it that close is good, but at the end of the day you want to be able to get one at the end to tie it up and get the point, maybe two. Moving forward there's some positives we can take away from it, but that being said, after a loss, there's always stuff you can build off.”
“Our young guys have got to figure out you're not scoring off the rush, you've got to score off the cycle,” Babcock said. “It's a harder game in the National Hockey League and you've got to dig in.”
Carolina assigned defenseman Ryan Murphy to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint. Murphy, 23, has one assist in four games with the Hurricanes this season.
Leafs left winger Josh Leivo was back with the Maple Leafs for Monday's practice after a conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Babcock said he is not quite ready to return from a lower body injury.