TORONTO - Home is where the heart is.
Or if you happen to be the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s the place where you get beaten all the time.
The Maple Leafs (33-34-9) will be looking to put an end to their franchise record nine-game home losing streak and keep their playoff hopes alive, mathematically anyway, when they play host to the Carolina Hurricanes (30-31-15) on Tuesday night.
It’s fitting that the Air Canada Centre seemed like a bit of a morgue on Tuesday morning with few reporters on hand to watch the team’s optional skate and even fewer players available to talk to the media afterwards.
Home has not been a safe haven for the Leafs this season. As well as being mired in their current streak of futility, the Leafs record at the ACC of 16-14-7 ranks them 26th in the league.
Randy Carlyle sounded like a man who has been coaching the Leafs for 20-plus years, not 20-plus days when he addressed the media after the skate. That is to say he was frustrated, ticked-off and at the end of his rope.
“I think what we’ve asked of our players is we have to demonstrate some more will, pride, passion, whatever, because it’s gone on long enough,” Carlyle said. “That was our message after practice yesterday that it’s unacceptable to have the home record that we have. And that’s what we’re going to ask of our players.
"We as a coaching staff have to find a way to motivate this group to play to a higher level and it has to start tonight … You can see the nervousness in our players and from my perspective that’s from a lack of confidence.”
There had better not be any nerves from the Leafs tonight: A regulation loss and their season is over. Toronto, with 75 points, currently sits nine points behind both Buffalo and Washington, who play each other tonight.
The Leafs will have injured forwards Clarke MacArthur (shoulder), Matt Frattin (ankle) and Mike Brown (thigh) available for the game, although it is unclear whether all three will play. Carlyle said he still hasn’t decided if he is going to go with six or seven defencemen against the Hurricanes and that will, of course, affect how many forwards he uses.
“I’m feeling good, everything’s great, so I think the plan right now is that I’m playing. That’s the rumour I’m hearing anyway,” Brown said. “You never want to lose at home. We have great fans and to be losing that many games in front of these fans, it’s not good.”
It appears the Leafs are turning back to James Reimer to start in goal in the hopes that their fans don’t have to endure a 10th consecutive home loss and that their season gets stretched just a little bit longer.