Maple Leafs-Hurricanes Preview

The Associated Press

The surging Carolina Hurricanes haven't lost since falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs last week.

Weather is the only thing getting in their way this week.

After its last game was postponed by a blizzard, Carolina hopes to pick up where it left off Thursday night against the visiting Maple Leafs.

The Hurricanes (18-16-9) have followed an 0-3-2 skid with a season-best four consecutive wins, most recently beating Nashville 2-1 on Sunday behind two points apiece from Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner.

"Momentum is a big thing," said coach Kirk Muller, whose Hurricanes haven't won five in a row since a seven-game run during the 2009-10 season.

Carolina will try to regain its momentum following three days off after Tuesday night's game in Buffalo was postponed due to a wintry blast of near-zero temperatures and heavy winds and snow. No makeup date has been announced.

Despite the layoff, it's unclear if captain Eric Staal will be able to return from a lower-body injury which caused him to miss a game for the first time this season. The Hurricanes are also without No. 1 goalie Cam Ward, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

"We're just trying to keep this thing going right now," said Skinner, who has six goals and four assists during a five-game point streak. "We're being consistent in our game and playing solid for all 60 minutes."

His team failed to do that in a 5-2 loss at Toronto on Dec. 29. Leafs forward Phil Kessel scored twice while Tyler Bozak notched a career-high three assists.

Another win could be hard to come by for Toronto (21-18-5), which has dropped three straight and eight of 11 in Carolina.

Plus, the Leafs have been awful defensively in losing their last two games, 7-1 to the Rangers on Saturday and 5-3 to the Islanders on Tuesday.

"I thought we played passive. We were afraid to make a mistake versus being aggressive and going after it," coach Randy Carlyle said after Tuesday's defeat. "We're not skating and being the tenacious Toronto Maple Leafs that I expect or everybody expects. We don't have enough tenacity in our game right now."

Jonathan Bernier was pulled in the second period Saturday after allowing five goals, then stopped just 20 of 24 shots against the Islanders for his ninth loss in 12 games.

"You could say it wasn't one of his better nights, that's for sure," Carlyle said. "We've called upon him too many times this year in a lot of situations."

Bernier is 2-2-0 with a 2.53 GAA against the Hurricanes. Teammate James Reimer is 4-1-1 with a 2.14 GAA and one shutout in the series.

The Hurricanes could turn back to Anton Khudobin, who improved to 5-0-0 after making 31 saves Saturday. He has started three consecutive games after missing 32 with an ankle injury.

"(Khudobin) should be fresh, and we want to push from now until the Olympic break," Muller said. "He's been playing well."

This is the first meeting between these teams since Toronto sent John-Michael Liles to Carolina for fellow defenseman Tim Gleason last Wednesday.

"John Liles was an excellent person for us and an excellent player," Carlyle said. "He backed what we were trying to do. ... An unfortunate situation where we couldn't get him ice time."

Skinner, a Toronto native, has nine points in his last seven games against the Leafs.

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