RALEIGH, N.C. - Coach Ron Wilson knows there will be no easy answers if the Leafs are to snap out of their four-game losing streak tonight at the RBC Arena.
For starters his team, which has dropped eight of it’s past 10, is facing a Carolina Hurricanes team battling for a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference. For another, the ‘Canes are expected to be fired up to win one for coach Paul Maurice, who was fired by the Leafs in the off-season after two years behind the bench.
While he toned down his comments to Toronto media, Maurice was more vocal to local reporters earlier in the week.
“The politically correct thing that most coaches say is, ‘It’s like any other game.’ But it’s not for me,” Maurice told a Carolina radio station. “It’s absolutely personal. You want to see that team lose every game for the next 10 years. That’s how I feel to be honest with you.”
When asked about the comments, Maurice tried to play them down.
“Breathe, people,” Maurice said to the mostly Toronto people. “Just breathe. What do you expect me to say? That I want to lose?”
As for the Leafs, after a miserable season-low 17 shots against Nashville on Tuesday, Wilson is hoping the team will get back to going hard to the net as it works to snap out of its funk on this mini road trip. The team plays tomorrow in Atlanta.
“We are just in a period that happens to a lot of teams,” Wilson said of the slump. “We’ll find our way out of it.”
Wilson is juggling his lineups to help end the slide. The coach is moving centre Matt Stajan on a unit with Alex Ponikarovsky and Lee Stempniak while putting wingers Nik Antropov and Nik Hagman with John Mitchell. The Leafs will be without forward Mikhail Grabovski again tonight as he sits out the second game of a three-game suspension for pushing lineman Scott Cherrey a week ago in Montreal.
Another change in the lineup is the return of defenceman Anton Stralman, who earlier this week was called up from the AHL Marlies. Wilson is hopeful that Stralman will help the offence with his puck-moving ability.
“Your offence comes from great passes from your defenders coming out of your end,” Wilson said. “You can have the best forwards in the league, but if they are not getting the puck, they are not going to make the plays you need.
“Maybe having Anton here will help make our offence a little better.”
The Hurricanes, who won the two previous meetings with the Leafs this season, return home from a three-game losing streak in Florida, Boston and Ottawa.