|Leafs goalie J-S Giguere will start against the Hurricanes tonight. (QMI Agency/Craig Robertson)
RALEIGH, N.C. -- If the Leafs were hoping for a little southern comfort here in North Carolina, they may have another thing coming.
For one thing, the weather, while not as frigid as home, is unseasonably cool this week. And for the other, on Monday night at the RBC Center, Toronto will face a Carolina Hurricanes team guided by former Leafs coach Paul Maurice that is in the thick of the playoff race.
Led by Eric Staal and the league’s top scoring rookie to this point, Jeff Skinner, the Canes are 5-1-1 in their past seven games and look to build some momentum as they head into the all-star break which will be played this weekend in their own building.
Playing in the tough Southeast Division, Carolina is also battling to stay in playoff position. They currently sit in eighth in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Atlanta who have played three more games.
The Leafs, meanwhile, could ensure their first winning month of the season with a win on Monday night or Tuesday in Tampa against the Lightning who are currently ranked second in the East.
“Over the last 11 games we are 6-4-1 and have been playing well,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said following his team’s optional game-day skate. “I’m not concerned about having a winning month record, we’re worried about trying to get back in the playoff race and we have to be prepared to try to win every single game.”
Though the Leafs have three goaltenders on the trip -- James Reimer was recalled from the Marlies -- veteran J-S Giguere will start again on Monday with Jonas Gustavsson as backup. There is a chance Reimer will get the call on Tuesday.
Forward Freddie Sjostrom, who felt he was healthy enough to return from a leg injury on Saturday but was held out, will be a game-time decision.
“We haven’t decided who is in up front,” Wilson said.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have had the Leafs’ number recently winning 10 of the past 13 meetings between the two clubs, the most recent being a 4-3 win in Toronto on Dec. 28. In that run, four of those victories have come either in overtime or a shootout.