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40-34-8

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Maple Leafs-Hurricanes Preview

Friday, 12.15.2006 / 7:30 PM

Associated Press

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Maple Leafs-Hurricanes Preview
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice returns to the RBC Center for the first time on Friday to face his former team, three years to the day since he was let go by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Maurice coached the Hurricanes (15-13-4) franchise for more than eight seasons, moving with the team after it relocated from Hartford, and ranks first in franchise history in wins (268), games coached (674), playoff wins (17) and playoff games coached (35).

He became the youngest coach in the NHL when he was hired by the Hartford Whalers at age 28 in 1995, and was fired Dec. 15, 2003, after the Hurricanes began the season 8-12-2 with eight ties.

He has not been back as a coach in the RBC Center since being let go.

"I've never even seen the visitors' locker-room in that building so it'll be interesting, for sure," Maurice said.

Maurice is in his first season with the Maple Leafs (14-13-5), who snapped a seven-game losing skid Tuesday with a 5-4 victory over Tampa Bay.

Toronto fell behind 3-1 early in the second period before Maurice called a timeout and replaced backup goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin with Andrew Raycroft. The move paid off as the Maple Leafs rallied with four straight goals.

"We've got to keep this going," Raycroft said of the Leafs' emergence from the slump. "We've got a good feeling after the last game so we want to keep that going and go on the road and do the same thing."

Toronto has lost its last four road games, and six of its last seven away from the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs have been outscored 17-5 during their road losing skid.

"If we don't get a win it kind of just cancels out the game against Tampa," said Jeff O'Neill, who scored the winning goal over the Lightning. "After dropping so many in a row, we've got to get on a streak here and get some victories."

While the Leafs have ended their lengthy losing streak, the Hurricanes lost to Colorado 5-2 on Monday to drop their fourth straight game - all on the road.

Carolina has not lost five straight games since closing the 2002-03 season with six consecutive losses March 26-April 6.

The Hurricanes led 2-1 in the third period, but gave up three power-play goals and four overall in the final 12 minutes.

"I thought we had turned the corner," Justin Williams said. "Obviously, we haven't."

Carolina killed just 2 of 5 power plays on Monday, and has stopped only 7 of 14 power-play chances in its last two games.

The good news for the Hurricanes is they return home to the RBC Center, where they are 8-4-1.

Goalie Cam Ward is 8-3-1 with a 2.90 goals-against average at home, and 1-0-1 with a 3.85 GAA against the Maple Leafs in his career.

Williams, who scored both of Carolina's goals Monday, has five goals and five assists in his last seven home games.

The defending Stanley Cup champions went 2-1-1 against Toronto last season as Eric Staal had four goals and four assists.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 27 '07CAR 1 at TOR 6P. Kubina
Jan 30 '07TOR 4 at CAR 1N. Antropov
Jan 09 '07CAR 4 at TOR 1E. Belanger
Dec 15 '06TOR 4 at CAR 3A. Steen
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
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