Those fears, however, have proven unfounded thus far as the Maple Leafs play host to the Carolina Hurricanes.
With captain and center Mats Sundin sidelined with a fractured cheek, the trio have proven more than capable of carrying the offensive load. Lindros leads the team with five goals while O’Neill and Allison have each totaled seven points in Toronto’s current three-game winning streak.
Lindros and Allison scored power-play goals to lead Toronto to a 3-2 win over Montreal on Saturday. Lindros snapped a 2-2 tie with his second goal of the game with 7:44 to play as the Maple Leafs picked up their first home win.
“He’s showing a responsibility and an accountability that we were hoping we’d get, but you never know, and he’s showing it right now,” Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said of Lindros, who seems to have found a comfort zone playing in his hometown province of Ontario.
This will be the first game O’Neill plays against his former team. The Hurricanes selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 1994 draft, and the 29-year-old center helped Carolina reach the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals and had four seasons with at least 25 goals. The Hurricanes, though, decided not to give O’Neill a $2.812 million qualifying offer after the lockout ended and traded him to the Maple Leafs, who signed him to a two-year, $3 million contract.
“There’s never a good time to say goodbye to somebody,” Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said in July when the deal was made. “Jeff was the first transaction I made as a general manager, and as our first pick in Hartford. He’s been a real good player for us.”
The Hurricanes recently have showed no signs of missing O’Neill. They have scored 13 goals in their last two games and are coming off a 6-1 romp at New Jersey on Saturday that began a three-game road trip. Rod Brind’Amour scored two goals for Carolina, which had netted just six goals in its first three games.
“I think things are evening out the last couple of games,” Rod Brind’Amour said. “The first few games we had some tremendous scoring opportunities and we weren’t scoring.”
Eric Staal, the 20-year-old center who helped make O’Neill expendable, did not have a point for the first time in five games but leads Carolina with five goals and eight points.
Quinn may turn to backup goaltender Mikael Tellqvist for this game. He stopped 85 of 89 shots in three starts against the Hurricanes in 2003-04, winning two.
STANDINGS : Hurricanes - 6 points, 3rd place (tied), 2 PB, Southeast Division. Maple Leafs - 8 points, 3rd place (tied), 2 PB, Northeast Division.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 18): Hurricanes - Power play: 18.4 percent (7 for 38), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.2 percent (25 for 29), 11th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 29.4 percent (15 for 51), 2nd. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (28 for 34), 17th.
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 2-2.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 23, 2004; Hurricanes 2-1. At Toronto, Ron Francis passed Maurice “Rocket” Richard on the all-time list with his 545th goal, snapping a 1-1 tie.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 1-2-0 on the road; Maple Leafs - 1-1-1 at Toronto.