The last time the Canes and Maple Leafs played, on Dec. 29, the Canes lost 5-2 and left Toronto caught up in a five-game winless streak.
And have not lost again.
First came the New Year's Eve comeback win against Montreal against PNC Arena. The Canes went into Washington and beat the Caps, then topped the New York Islanders for another road win. A 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena made it four straight, all by one goal.
"The common theme to it is we're not beating ourselves," Canes forward Pat Dwyer said Thursday. "If you look back at some of the games we dropped in the past month, we were beating ourselves. We're sticking to our game a little more than we have and we're not trying to create plays that aren't there. We're kind of waiting for the other team to break."
Cam Ward was in net for the Canadiens game but has since been out with a lower-body injury. It has been Anton Khudobin starting and he has responded with three straight victories, boosting his record to 5-0 this season, with a 1.99 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.
"He came back from his injury and he went down to Charlotte and played some games (for the Checkers) and then came back here," Dwyer said. "His last (three) games here have been great. He's kept us in games and done an amazing job to give us opportunities to win games.
"You look at the season as a whole, and when we're going and when we're not, and you look at the crease and that's the difference for us -- how they play during those spells."
Ward, Kudobin and Justin Peters have split up the goaltending starts this year and all three have been effective.
"I think as long as we continue to get good goaltending from all three of them we'll be in the hunt for a playoff spot," Dwyer said.
While Canes coach Kirk Muller did not commit to a starter after Thursday's morning skate, Khudobin likely will make his fourth straight start and face the Leafs in the start of a back-to-back. Khudobin was first off ice after the skate.
One player who did not skate was defenseman Ron Hainsey. Muller said Hainsey, who was at practice Wednesday, was ill and his availability would be a game-time decision.
There were no line changes from Wednesday’s practice at the skate. Jeff Skinner centered Tuomo Ruutu and Alex Semin, Jordan Staal centered Nathan Gerbe and Dwyer, Manny Malhotra centered Drayson Bowman and Radek Dvorak, and Brett Sutter was at center with wingers Zach Boychuk and Elias Lindholm.
With Hainsey out, the defensive pairs were Justin Faulk-Andrej Sekera, Jay Harrison-Brett Bellemore and John-Michael Liles-Ryan Murphy. Harrison, who has recovered from a concussion, has not played since Dec. 21 against Tampa Bay.
The Leafs (21-18-5) have lost their last two games, against the New York Rangers and the Islanders, being outscored 12-4. The Canes (18-16-9), meanwhile, were caught in the Buffalo blizzard and had their Tuesday night game against the Sabres postponed -- and now rescheduled for Feb. 25.
"Both teams know where we are in the standings and how important these games are," Muller said. "It's always dangerous when you play a team that's not happy with their game. They're a good hockey club. They beat us last time. We've got our hands full.
"We've got nice momentum. I think the key is we've got to focus on ourselves and focus on the things we're doing well and bring our type of game."