RALEIGH, N.C. -- If the Maple Leafs are leading the Carolina Hurricanes tonight by two goals in the third period, don't get up for another beverage.
When the red-hot 'Canes overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last Saturday, they became the first team in NHL history to win four games in a row in which they had trailed by at least two goals.
So coach Peter Laviolette treated his team to two complete days off. The 'Canes were back on the ice Tuesday and yesterday to prepare for the Maple Leafs and Jeff O'Neill's first game here as a member of the opposition tonight. The Leafs were the most recent team to beat Carolina -- off to a club-best 8-2-0-1 start -- on Oct. 20 in Toronto.
"They earned (the days off)," Laviolette said. "It wasn't hanging over their heads. I didn't sell it. It wasn't something I dangled in front of them."
Eric Staal deservedly has been getting headlines across the continent. The 21-year-old Thunder Bay native was leading the NHL with 22 points going into last night and suddenly is a consideration for Canada's Olympic team Does he like his chances of playing in Turin?
"I think I'm playing the wrong position because there are so many great players," the second-year centre said. "You never know. If they give me a shot, they give me a shot. If not, maybe next time."
But Staal has not been the sole reason for the Hurricanes' success. General manager Jim Rutherford has added some key pieces since the end of the 2003-04 season, including Cory Stillman, Ray Whitney, Frantisek Kaberle, Oleg Tverdovsky, Matt Cullen and Martin Gerber.
But given a choice, the Hurricanes would like to start winning games going away, not after erasing deficits.
"I think we can't be down two goals going into the third period every game," said Staal, a 6-foot-4, 205-pounder with good speed. "That's probably going to bite us at some point."