A lot has changed, however, since Martin Gelinas’ goal 8:05 into overtime sent the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.
First of all, Gelinas is gone, having signed as a free agent with Calgary. And Carolina faces an uphill climb in its battle for a playoff berth. Despite earning points in each of the last three games (1-0-1-1), the Hurricanes are in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, 13 points out of a postseason spot with 23 games to play.
Carolina is coming off Saturday’s 2-2 tie at Philadelphia in which it squandered a two-goal lead in the third period. The Hurricanes got goals from defenseman Sean Hill and All-Star Jeff O’Neill, who has five points in his last five games.
The Maple Leafs are in the thick of the playoff race in the East. They have won seven of their last eight games to move into fourth place in the conference. And Saturday’s 2-1 triumph over Ottawa boosted Toronto within 11 points of the first-place Senators in the Northeast Division.
Former Hurricane Gary Roberts made his season debut in the latest renewal of the Battle of Ontario. After missing 57 games following surgery on both shoulders, he played on Toronto’s top line with Mats Sundin and Alexander Mogilny.
“I just got in the right position a couple of time, threw a few checks,” Roberts said. “Hopefully, I’m going to get better as I move along here.”
Sundin scored a pair of power-play goals and Mogilny collected a goal and three assists on January 29 as the Maple Leafs posted a 3-2 road win over Carolina.
But the Hurricanes are 3-2-2 in their last seven regular-season trips to Toronto.