Hurricanes Record: 2-2-3 (7 pts.)
Leafs Record: 6-1-0 (12 pts.)
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Tonight's game will be broadcast on SportsSouth alternative channels instead of on Fox Sports Carolinas. Please make note of the channels. The Canes have conveniently linked a channel guide for the viewing area, find it on their Broadcast page [here].
The North Carolina State Fair kicks off today in Raleigh, and we all know what that means. Rides, shows, carnies, livestock, and fried foods! Actually, it means that the Hurricanes have to make themselves scarce for about 10 days, which they did yesterday as they headed out on their annual October State Fair road trip.
This road trip is actually much milder than years past, with just four games in nine days, and a break long enough to bring them back home in the middle (perhaps for some Krispy Kreme burgers if Pete Friesen doesn't get to them first).
The Canes traveled to Toronto yesterday to face the Maple Leafs tonight, then will head to Long Island for a game against the Islanders. A five-day break between games allows for a quick trip back home and a couple of days of practice here in Raleigh before heading back out for back-to-back games next Thursday and Friday against the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche.
While the Canes have matched up well against the Leafs in recent seasons (7-3-1 over the last three seasons and 2-1 last season), the Leafs currently sit atop the Atlantic division with a 6-1-0 record and are coming off a 4-1 win against the Wild Tuesday night.
Notes coming out of yesterday's Canes practice (via multiple sources on the twitter):
--- Practice was on the lightly attended side: Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin, Andrej Sekera, Justin Faulk, Radek Dvorak, Jeff Skinner, Ron Hainsey and Cam Ward were all absent.
--- Elias Lindholm skated with the team in a regular contact jersey, and head coach Kirk Muller says he is unlikely against the Leafs although he could return against the Islanders.
--- Tim Gleason has begun off-ice workouts and traveled with the team. He could begin skating again as soon as today (though obviously no timetable yet for return).
--- There is speculation that defenseman Mike Komisarek could return to the line-up tonight to face his former team. Komisarek was profiled in yesterday's road trip report on the Canes website.
--- As of now the depth chart hasn't changed, so lines remain as they were in Sunday's game (link here).
--- Kirk Muller's post-practice comments (audio)
The major news coming out of Toronto is the status of Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk for tonight's game. JVR scored two goals in a win against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, then missed practice on Monday and didn't play in Tuesday's game due to an undisclosed upper body injury. He participated in a limited practice yesterday and is "possible" for tonight.
Joffrey Lupul and van Riemsdyk lead the Leafs in scoring with five goals each, but Lupul currently holds the points lead with eight points. Off-season free agent acquisition Mason Raymond and newly-extended Phil Kessel also weigh in with eight points each, and Nasem Kadri has seven points.
The Leafs may be off to their best start in 20 years, but team defense has been a concern, and they have been outshot in five out of seven games, including a lopsided 37-14 shots on goal differential against the Wild Tuesday night. Goaltending has been solid with the Leafs tandem of Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer combining for a 2.29 GAA, good enough for fifth in league standings. No starting goaltender has been named, but Bernier has been getting most of the starts and Reimer started Tuesday, so it's likely Bernier will get tonight's assignment. Season-to-date Bernier is 4-1 with a 1.75 GAA and .946 save percentage.
Wednesday's practice lines for the Leafs can be found [here], with tonight's line-ups subject to change based on the status of van Riemsdyk. Forward David Clarkson remains out as he serves a ten-game suspension, defenseman Mark Fraser is on LTIR with a lower body injury, and forward Nikolai Kulemin is out with an ankle injury.
Stay tuned for news coming out of today's practices and media availability. The game thread will be ready to roll at 6:30 pm. See you there.