Leafs try to extend win streak in clash with 'Canes

(SportsNetwork.com) - The sizzling Toronto Maple Leafs take aim at a seventh straight victory when they visit the lowly Carolina Hurricanes for Thursday's encounter at PNC Arena.

Toronto is on a six-game winning streak and Randy Carlyle's team also boasts a 10-1-1 record over its last 12 outings. The surge has propelled the Maple Leafs into a playoff position in the Eastern Conference, where they currently are holding onto the first of two wild card spots.

The club's latest victory was perhaps the most impressive one of the current winning streak, as Toronto slammed the visiting Anaheim Ducks by a 6-2 score on Tuesday. The Ducks lead the NHL in points and the club entered the contest on a seven-game winning streak of its own.

James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel each had one goal and an assist to lead the rout. Joffrey Lupul, David Booth and Nazem Kadri also lit the lamp for the Maple Leafs and Jonathan Bernier stopped 40-of-42 shots for the win.

The lopsided loss tied Anaheim's worst margin of defeat this season. The Ducks also lost a 6-2 decision to the Florida Panthers on Nov. 16.

However, despite dominating the Ducks on the scoreboard, the Maple Leafs were outshot by a 42-27 margin in the contest.

"(Bernier) was the main reason we had a chance to win the game," Carlyle said afterwards.

Toronto is on its longest winning streak since another six-game run from Jan. 12-21 of last season. That streak ended with a 7-1 loss in Dallas on Jan. 23.

The Maple Leafs haven't won seven in a row since an eight-game winning streak from Nov. 22-Dec. 6, 2003.

Toronto will play eight of its next nine games on the road, where it is 5-2-3 this season compared to a 14-7-0 mark at home. The Leafs will host Philadelphia in its next game on Saturday before heading out on a seven-game swing.

While the Leafs are aiming for their seventh straight win tonight, the Hurricanes will try to do the opposite. Carolina has lost six in a row -- all in regulation -- and carries a 4-13-1 mark over its last 18 games into tonight's contest.

The Hurricanes, who are last in the NHL this season with 19 points, dropped a 4-1 decision Tuesday in Montreal. It marked Carolina's sixth straight game with one goal, as the club has been outscored by a combined 18-6 score during this slide.

Carolina surrendered a hat trick to Alex Galchenyuk on Tuesday, while Victor Rask supplied his team's only goal. Cam Ward gave up all four goals on 29 shots in the setback.

"You have to believe that you are going to score," Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said. "We have to quit gripping the stick as tight as we are and shoot to score when you go to the net."

Jiri Tlusty, who has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, is questionable for tonight's test. The forward is leading Carolina with 10 goals this season.

Tonight's test marks the first of three scheduled meetings this season between Carolina and Toronto. The Hurricanes have won six of the last eight encounters overall and the Leafs have dropped four straight and six of seven at PNC Arena.

Bernier could get the call again for Toronto and owns a 2-2-0 record and a 2.53 goals against average in his career against Carolina. Backup James Reimer is 4-2-1 with a lifetime 2.69 GAA in his matchup.

Ward is 15-8-3 with a 2.75 GAA versus the Leafs, and backup Anton Khudobin is 2-1-0 with a 2.23 GAA for his career in this series.