Carolina Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice may officially be on the hot seat. One of his former teams can make things even more difficult for him Sunday evening as the Toronto Maple Leafs pay a visit to Raleigh, N.C. The Hurricanes are among the league bottom feeders, having lost three straight games - the last two via shutout. Carolina comes into Sunday’s game on a goalless drought stretching more than 135 minutes. That bodes well for the Maple Leafs, who are missing more than a half-dozen regulars as they look to remain in contention for the Northeast Division lead. Toronto is coming off its most complete game of the season a night earlier, scoring four times in the second period of a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals to halt a three-game losing skid.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, Leafs TV
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (11-7-2): Everything went right for Toronto in Saturday’s one-sided win over the Capitals. The top line of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak combined for eight points while Jonas Gustavsson was sensational in goal, stopping 40 shots. The victory was especially satisfying for Gustavsson, who came into the night 4-4-0 with a 3.31 goals-against average and a pedestrian .878 save percentage.
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (6-11-3): Holes in the defence and goaltending helped move the Hurricanes to the Southeast Division basement, but a major lack of offence is keeping them there. Carolina wasted a sublime effort from backup netminder Brian Boucher in Friday’s 1-0 loss to the Sabres, a defeat that dropped the Hurricanes to 2-7-0 in November. Captain Eric Staal has been the biggest culprit, with just eight points and a minus-18 rating in 20 games this season.
1. Toronto ended a five-game slide in the head-to-head series with wins in the final two encounters last season. The Maple Leafs outscored Carolina 6-1 in those victories.
2. Staal may find paydirt against Toronto, having averaged better than a point per game (12 goals, 15 assists in 26 games) against the Maple Leafs in his career.
3. Cam Ward will be in goal for Carolina after sitting out Friday’s loss to Buffalo. He’s 9-8-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average in 18 career meetings with the Maple Leafs.
PREDICTION: Hurricanes 5, Maple Leafs 2. Carolina is due for a breakout, and should capitalize against a battered Toronto club playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road.
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