Last 10 – Toronto 1-5-4; Carolina 0-7-3
Season series – It’s their first meeting of the season. Last season, Carolina took 3 of 4 from Toronto.
Big story – Easily the biggest story of this clash is that someone has to win it. The Leafs and ‘Canes have one win combined in their last 20 games, and their 14 combined points are more than the individual totals of only seven teams.
Maple Leafs – It’s hard to sugarcoat things when a team has won one game in 13 tries. The offense is bad, the defense is bad, but GM Brian Burke likes the way his team is playing and the return of Phil Kessel is definitely a reason for optimism.
"Hopefully he doesn't get the pressure from people," Matt Stajan told the Toronto Star. "I know as a team we're not doing that to him. We're going to help ease him in and hopefully he can just do what he does best."
Tonight will be Kessel’s second game with the Leafs. In the first one, he was knocked to the ice by a big hit from the Lightning’s Mattias Ohlund. But Kessel fired a career-high 10 shots on goal.
Hurricanes – Last season’s Eastern Conference finalists have lost 10 straight games, including a 3-0 loss to Florida on Wednesday. But coach Paul Maurice thinks his team is coming around.
"We played a very, very good game," Maurice said. "We didn't win, so we don't get the good feeling we deserved, but we did so many good things in that game."
If there was ever a time to break a double-digit losing streak, it’s at home against the Leafs.
Who's hot – Carolina has been outscored 19-4 in its last four games and is just waiting for someone to catch fire. Ray Whitney and Jussi Jokinen are tied for the team lead in scoring with 8 points in 14 games. Leafs defenseman Tom Kaberle has 2 goals and 11 assists in his last five games.
Injury report – Leafs defensemen Mike Van Ryn (knee) and Jamie Heward (concussion) are out. Carolina center Eric Staal sat out Wednesday’s loss to Florida because of an upper-body injury, snapping his streak of consecutive games at 349. He’s considered questionable for Friday’s game.
Stat pack – The Leafs have just one win on the season, but they have points in their last five games (1-0-4). Whitney, Jokinen and Matt Cullen, three of Carolina’s leading scorers, have combined for just 2 assists in the team’s last four games.
Puck drop – Carolina has the advantage of home ice, Toronto has the advantage of Kessel finally healthy and seemingly quite motivated, if his performance against Tampa was any indication.