'Canes still a scary team

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Where the Maple Leafs are running low on forwards, the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes have a dwindling defence.

Carolina, which is hard-pressed to make the playoffs this year, never mind worry about keeping their title, obtained defenceman Dennis Seidenberg from the Phoenix Coyotes yesterday for ex-Leaf checking centre Kevyn Adams. They are without backliners Bret Hedican, Frantisek Kaberle and Tim Gleason. Seidenberg was to hop a red-eye flight last night to be here in time to face the Leafs this evening at the Air Canada Centre.

Though the salary cap likely means the days of a repeat champion in the NHL are done, the Leafs are wary of the 'Canes, who sit four points ahead. Toronto beat them a month ago 4-3, continuing its curious trend of beating the previous season's champions in the first meeting, but coach Paul Maurice expects his old team to be in better form.

"Without disrespecting any other team, I think Buffalo and Carolina are the two best in our conference," Maurice said yesterday. "In the end it will be down to their goaltending if they had to face off against each other.

"We played great in Carolina, but they didn't have Rod Brind'Amour and Kaberle and were only an inch or two from finishing (goals) on a couple of plays. They still have a presence and while they don't have a heavyweight in their lineup, they still play a physical game."

Adams is another player who has haunted the Leafs since the Columbus Blue Jackets claimed him on waivers in 2000. He eventually helped the 'Canes beat the Leafs in the '02 playoffs and became a big part of their Cup team last year. But someone had to be sacrificed for blueline assistance.

"I know they've been looking for a D for awhile and I also know (Seidenberg's) name had come up (three years ago) when I was there," Maurice said.

The 'Canes had better watch Alex Steen, as the Leafs' first-line left winger had a series' high seven points against Carolina last year and a big goal on Dec. 15.

"They're a fast-paced team, quite similar to Buffalo and we need to skate with them," Steen said. "I feel we've been doing that very well lately. We must keep working at getting pucks on net and getting bodies there. You saw last game how effective that was (for the Leafs and Sabres).

"The standings will tell you that it's just a few points difference between fifth and 11th or 12th place. It means you have to be ready every game, because every point is key, every team can beat you and you can beat every team."


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