Maple Leafs at Hurricanes
The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs in seven seasons, while the Carolina Hurricanes have missed the tournament for the last three years. It is too early - even in this lockout-shortened campaign - to declare this a possible postseason preview, but Thursday's meeting in Raleigh, N.C., features a pair of rising teams in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has won four straight since a 4-1 loss to Carolina on Feb. 4, while the Hurricanes have won four of five while earning a point in the loss.
Carolina, which leads the Southeast Division by two points over Tampa Bay, returns home after a 4-1-1 road trip which ended with a 4-2 victory over New Jersey on Tuesday. The Maple Leafs are quite comfortable on the road, where they have won four straight and are 6-1-0 this season. Toronto, though, faces a stretch without No. 1 goaltender James Reimer and point-per-game scorer Matt Frattin, who both suffered knee injuries. While Reimer should miss only one week, Frattin is expected to be out longer.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Leafs TV (Toronto), FSN Carolinas
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (8-5-0): While Reimer was off to a solid start, Ben Scrivens (2-2-0, 2.56 goals-against average, .912 save percentage) has performed well and will assume the No. 1 role in Reimer's absence. The offense had received a surprising lift from Frattin, who was promoted when Joffrey Lupul went down with a broken arm in the third game of the season. The 25-year-old right wing, who has seven goals in 10 games after scoring eight in his previous 57 NHL contests, will undergo a surgical procedure to try to correct a medial collateral ligament issue. James Van Riemsdyk has collected a team-leading eight goals while Phil Kessel (two) continues his slow start.
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (7-4-1): Carolina is receiving its biggest contributions from expected places in captain Eric Staal and 2010-11 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner. Coming off a 24-goal season - his worst since scoring 11 in his rookie campaign in 2003-04 - Staal has a team-leading eight goals, while Skinner has seven. Staal's brother, Jordan, has been a welcome addition, centering the second line between Skinner and Patrick Dwyer (four goals). Jiri Tlusty, who scored a career-high 17 goals last season, is off to a fast start with five, and has benefited from skating on the top line. The Hurricanes have overcome a slow start by Cam Ward, who has a 3.02 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
1. The Maple Leafs recalled G Jussi Rynnas from their American Hockey League affiliate in Toronto to serve as Scrivens' backup. He is 8-8-1, 2.57, .931 with the Marlies this season.
2. Carolina backup G Dan Ellis is 2-1-0, 1.99, .939, but hasn't played since a 5-3 loss at Philadelphia on Feb. 2.
3. Jay McClement is expected to take Frattin's place on a line with Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur.