The Carolina Hurricanes may have cooled off recently, but they appear to be in strong position to regain their momentum before the All-Star break.
The Hurricanes look to continue their success against the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night in the first of two meetings in just over a week.
Carolina (23-19-6) has dropped four of six following a 6-0-2 run, which started with a 4-3 win at Toronto (19-23-5) on Dec. 28. It was the Hurricanes' fourth straight win over the Maple Leafs.
Another meeting with the Maple Leafs before a visit to the New York Islanders on Wednesday could get the Hurricanes winning again before Sunday's All-Star game at RBC Center.
They've taken eight of 10 matchups versus Toronto and gone 11-2-2 in the last 15 games against the Islanders.
Carolina's recent funk continued Saturday, falling 3-2 at Pittsburgh as its rally fell short after Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal scored 3:27 apart late in the third period.
"Too little, too late," said Cam Ward, who had 28 saves Saturday and owns a 3.12 goals-against average while starting the last six games. "You need that for the whole entire game."
Staal has one goal and one assist over the last four games after getting six and six, respectively, in the previous 10. Over his last 19 games against Toronto, the Hurricanes captain has 12 goals and 14 assists, scoring twice in the most recent meeting.
Staal leads the team with 23 goals and 48 points, and will join Ward as Carolina's All-Star representatives.
Ward, who may be back in net, hasn't had much success at home against the Maple Leafs, losing four of six with a 3.36 GAA. That could prompt Carolina to use backup Justin Peters, who made 32 stops in a 5-1 win at Toronto on March 2 in his only meeting with the Leafs.
The Maple Leafs, who host Carolina on Feb. 3, have been outscored 19-8 during a current 1-3-1 stretch. They failed to build on Thursday's 5-2 win over Anaheim by losing 4-1 to Washington on Saturday.
"I think we played better than the score reflected," captain Dion Phaneuf said. We're not happy about the loss, but we've got to move forward quickly because we've got a big road trip before the break. Back-to-backs are never easy, but it's a tough trip. Those teams are also fighting for positioning, too."
After this game, the Maple Leafs are on the road at Tampa Bay on Tuesday before heading into the All-Star break.
Some production from the power play could get this trip off to a strong start. The unit has converted 1 of 16 chances over the last five games and none in eight attempts in the last three.
Phil Kessel, Toronto's lone representative for the All-Star game, is second on the team with 19 goals - six on the man advantage. The right wing hasn't scored a power-play goal in seven games and has failed to tally a goal in his last five.
He had two goals against Carolina last month.