kAfter returning home and playing fairly well despite losing 4-2 to Florida on Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes are right back on the road for a Monday matinee against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For the Hurricanes, the game represents a chance to quickly cut a losing streak short and to carry the positive momentum from the 4-0-1 road trip into the Christmas break.
As a side bonus, the game also represents a chance to try to keep the Maple Leafs down such that the first-round draft pick obtained in the Patrick Marleau trade is in the first half of the 2020 NHL Draft. The Maple Leafs started slow but have since seemed to right the ship climbing to second place in the Atlantic Division.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Toronto Maple Leafs
1) Continuation from Saturday
The story going into Saturday’s game included the potential for a typical first game home lull, but per my game recap that was not the cause of Saturday’s loss. An early miscue by Jake Gardiner for a breakaway goal against sapped some early momentum, but in general the Canes found the pace and intensity. With more travel, an odd 2pm start and the holiday break looming, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can dig into the well for one more strong effort.
2) Matching up against high-end talent on the road
The top of the Leafs forward group and their power play features a good amount of high-end scoring talent. On the road, that can sometimes present problems match up-wise, but the Hurricanes fared pretty well against a tough run against the likes of Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon and others on the road, so the Canes have been up to this task. Nonetheless, I will be watching to see how the Canes fare against Mitch Marner and company without the ability to dictate match ups.
3) Jake Gardiner’s return to Toronto
After being maligned a bit for playoff (and to some degree other) struggles in Toronto, Gardiner left to play for the Hurricanes where the pressure is a bit less and the lights less bright. Thus far, the transition has been a struggle and is still very much a work in progress. It is hard to say what, if any, effect a return to Toronto will have, but he is one to watch for this return to Toronto.
The puck drops at an odd 2pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.