The Hurricanes return from a game they might rather forget, a 6-1 home loss to the Rangers, to take on the Maple Leafs tonight at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes put up a strong offensive showing last time in Toronto, winning 6-3, but the Maple Leafs are always an offensive threat with weapons like Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri, both with more than 20 points this season.
Though Toronto is not in-conference, this game still feels like it has a lot of pressure riding on it for Carolina. In a loaded Metro division, one can only keep one’s head above the water for so long. Consistent winning stretches will guarantee playoff contention and anything less could spell another year of playoff drought. The Hurricanes have plenty of season left, but it’s much easier to start early than hope to streak late.
Cam Ward takes over tonight in goal after a less-than-laudable performance by Scott Darling (the second goal gives me nightmares still) against the Rangers on Wednesday. After spending two games in the press box as a healthy scratch, Victor Rask returns to tonight’s lineup. Josh Jooris will sit out instead, and all but the TSA line will be shuffled in effect.
Here are the lines to expect from the Hurricanes:
Sebastian Aho - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Brock McGinn - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm
Jeff Skinner - Derek Ryan - Justin Williams
Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Phil Di Giuseppe
Jaccob Slavin - Brett Pesce
Haydn Fleury - Justin Faulk
Noah Hanifin - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Even though Toronto is second behind the mighty Lightning in the Atlantic division, the Maple Leaf fan base is a very tough monster to quelch. A two-game losing streak and the home loss to the Hurricanes earlier this season make them even hungrier for a win tonight.
All eyes in Toronto will be on the top line, as the Leafs look to give the Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner pairing another shot despite failing to record a point against the Panthers in their last outing together, though the two rattled off 12 shots on goal. Josh Leivo will be back in the lineup after sitting four games, and Babcock has Matt Martin take his first healthy scratch as a Leaf.
Most importantly for the Caniacs, Ron Hainsey will play in his first game as a Maple Leaf at PNC Arena, and should receive a warm welcome unless he records too many points.
Here are the projected Toronto lines according to Paul Hendrick of LNN:
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitchell Marner
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - William Nylander
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Nikita Soshnikov
Josh Leivo - Patrick Marleau - Connor Brown
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Andreas Borgman - Connor Carrick