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Preview: Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs

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Jordan Staal and his merry band of evil-doers is coming to Toronto.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs: Game number 19

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: ACC

Broadcast/Streaming: TSN4, FS-SE

Opponent SBNation Site: Canes Country

The Carolina Hurricanes are coming to town. So prepare to welcome the Leafs younger, less successful sibling who somehow still thinks they are the smart one.

While it is true Carolina started doing that Corsi thing where they actually have the puck some of the time years before the Leafs, they were still jousting with Toronto for a high draft pick two years ago. I hear some Leafs fans were upset at losing out on Noah Hanifin for that Mitch Marner scrub. We should check in with them some time.

Carolina also hired Mike Babcock’s protégé before Toronto spent big on the real thing, but that still doesn’t make them smarter or better, and Toronto will absolutely make the playoffs before Carolina does. If they are even still Carolina when they do.

There were rumours again recently that the team was moving. And those rumours always have a French accent. But the team just keeps plugging along through all this, putting up great Corsi, losing a lot of games, and...wait, what?

The Hurricanes lose a lot.

They only managed to not be last in their division last year because Columbus was so extremely terrible. This year, they started out very badly with only two wins in the month of October. This idea they had to stock the team with small, mobile Finnish scoring forwards to intersperse with their small, mobile scoring Swedes was obviously doomed. The losing was all Sebastian Aho’s fault.

Only it was also a bit of an illusion. They lost their first three games by one goal, two in overtime, and when you see a team doing that, you are seeing a team a coinflip away from a winning streak.

The Hurricanes are on a winning streak.

They beat the Capitals 5-1, the Sharks 1-0, and to add insult to injury, they got to play Montréal and beat them with Al Montoya in net the night before Toronto got Priced. Carolina beat the Jets on Sunday, and it is all his fault:

Don’t make me explain the axe or why the haft is a hockey stick.

The Hurricanes are small—see the above photo—fast, with an excellent defence full of guys you’ve never heard of who are better than Hanifin. They have more elvish-looking forwards who can slip the puck in the net before your average six and a half foot goalie thinks to look down than any one team needs, and the head elf this year is Jeff Skinner.

Do not be fooled by how cute they all are! They are evil elves, and their leader is Jordan Staal, surely a Bad Santa if ever one existed. He so enraged the Jets with an uncalled boarding on Dustin Byfuglien that resulted in a Carolina power play that the Jets paraded to the penalty box for the rest of the game, nearly assuring the evil elves would have plenty of scoring opportunities.

Toronto has elves though! Toronto has good elves who sing Bon Jovi and pass the puck when they should shoot it because they are just that nice. Toronto has Russian elves. Beat that, Carolina. Toronto maybe has a couple of elves in the AHL who aren’t quite ready yet and is making do with some imitation elves. Toronto also has a Good Santa...okay, truthfully, the Leafs have way more Bad Santa types than the Canes do. I don’t care how much Leo Komarov’s eye can twinkle, no one is calling him Good Santa with a straight face.

The Canes weakness lies behind all those elves and no-name defenders. It’s the goaltending. But even goalies who used to be good are still good sometimes, and Cam Ward is on a very hot streak right now. He was one of the NHL three stars of the week. Yes, that’s right: the bad team is on a hot streak; the bad goalie is on a hot streak, and they are coming in hot, right at the Leafs.

In net for the Leafs is Andersen, who has been a little worrying at times, even when he’s winning, but it also amazingly good at times. He is also way too large and serious a man to be worried by elves. He’s also absolutely a direct descendant of Hans Christian Andersen and knows all the secrets of beating them. I wouldn’t lie to you about this.

The Leafs are unlikely to make any changes to their lineup, so barring any strange last-minute doings, the expected lineups are below.

Carolina has sent a defender to the minors, and Eddie Lack has suffered a concussion in practice, so they have called up Michael Leighton to backup Cam Ward.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Connor Brown

Matt Martin - Ben Smith - Nikita Soshnikov

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Jhonas Enroth

Carolina Hurricanes

Forward Lines

Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm

Teuvo Teravainen - Jordan Staal - Sebastian Aho

Lee Stempniak - Derek Ryan - Brock McGinn

Joakim Nordstrom - Jay McClement - Viktor Stalberg

Defence Pairings

Ron Hainsey - Justin Faulk

Jaccob Slavin - Brett Pesce

Noah Hanifin - Matt Tennyson

Goaltenders

Cam Ward

Michael Leighton

That third line looks porous to me, although Derek Ryan spent so long in the SHL, who knows what elvish skills he picked up. Lee Stempniak is the most amazing veteran signing of the season as well, but they look like speed could push through them and lead to beautiful goals.

Expect to see Nazem Kadri trying to contain that top line with the team’s top two goal scorers and one of the highest-volume shooters in the NHL in Skinner. Matthews might be left to the tender mercies of Staal and company.

However it works out, let’s hope the Leafs are on fire. So, Go Leafs Go!