The Toronto Maple Leafs would like to celebrate a victory in addition to history on Tuesday afternoon as they bid to end a three-game losing skid versus the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. The Maple Leafs may not be in a festive mood while honoring their 100-year anniversary, however, with Auston Matthews once again likely to be a spectator at the party.
“He’s doing good, I don’t know when they’re letting him play, but he’s doing good,” coach Mike Babcock said of the reigning Calder Trophy recipient, who has missed four straight games due to an unspecified upper-body injury. Toronto will honor its first-ever game when the then-Arenas met the Montreal Wanderers on Dec. 19, 1917, with the Maple Leafs expected to wear (very) old-school jerseys. “I think it’s fun. I think it’s awesome to be a part of it, 100 years of the NHL,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said Monday. “They’re wearing the old Toronto Arena jerseys. I think it’s going to be a fun afternoon.” Carolina has been having some fun of late with wins in three straight overall, although both clubs have captured a victory on the other’s home ice this season.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, FSN Carolinas, Sportsnet Ontario (Toronto)
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (14-11-7): Jordan Staal is showing signs of putting a disastrous stretch in his rear-view mirror by scoring a goal for the second time in as many games in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Columbus. The 29-year-old Ontario native has two goals and an assist in his last two contests on the heels of recording just two points - including one goal in a 5-4 loss to Toronto on Nov. 24 - in his previous 13. Defenseman Noah Hanifin collected a goal and an assist in that encounter versus the Maple Leafs and added his sixth goal of the season on Saturday versus the Blue Jackets.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (20-13-1): Toronto’s injuries do not begin and end with Matthews, however, as minutes-eating defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is expected to miss at least two weeks with a lower-body injury sustained after blocking a shot in Friday’s 3-1 setback in Detroit. “Zee is a big part of this club, it’s my job to step in,” fellow defenseman Connor Carrick said of Zaitsev, who averages a team-best 22:50 of ice time per game. “After a couple of practices at home, we should be gunned up and energetic.” Hopefully the offense follows suit for the Maple Leafs, who have mustered four goals during their three-game skid and have failed to eclipse 29 shots on goal in any of its last six contests.
1. Toronto C Nazem Kadri is mired in a seven-game point drought.
2. Hurricanes LW Jeff Skinner has three assists in two meetings with the Maple Leafs this season.
3. Toronto is just 1-for-17 on the power play this month while Carolina is 1-for-18 with the man advantage in the last seven games.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 5, Hurricanes 2