The Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Carolina Hurricanes in a matchup between two Eastern Conference contenders (7:00 p.m., Sportsnet/HNIC).

The Maple Leafs will play the Hurricanes two times in the next eight days, and it will be a chance to evaluate how they fare against a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. The Carolina Hurricanes have a new look after adding Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov at the trade deadline. The Hurricanes’ management team has been criticized in past seasons for not giving their team the best chance to win by being conservative with their assets and not acquiring players on expiring contracts. By adding offensive firepower with Guentzel and Kuznetsov, they are as “all in” as they have ever been in their many years of being near the top of the Eastern Conference. Carolina enters tonight’s game with confidence after beating the juggernaut Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday. Pyotr Kochetkov, who has posted a .932 save percentage since the All-Star break, will start tonight.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be missing two of their top defensive forwards tonight. Mitch Marner remains unavailable due to an ankle injury and Calle Järnkrok suffered a hand injury in their game against Philadelphia. Ilya Lyubushkin, who took a beating in Philadelphia, is a game-time decision on the blue line. Ilya Samsonov’s strong play forces Sheldon Keefe’s hand to keep him in the net. He has earned a second consecutive start tonight, after the Leafs had been rotating goaltenders Samsonov and Joseph Woll over the past few weeks. Samsonov left the morning skate early with an apparent injury, but Keefe said he is good to go tonight.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on Ilya Samsonov, unprompted, as he approached the podium:

“Sammy’s fine. He’ll play tonight. Leave me alone.”

Keefe on the decision to keep Samsonov in the net: 

“It’s a reflection of the whole picture. He’s been going really well, so that’s really it.”

Keefe on the Carolina Hurricanes adding Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov at the deadline: 

“They’re a great team that was very deep and now are deeper and more dangerous. They’ve always had good forwards, but I think their defense and how they defend as a group has always been their identity. Now they’ve added more punch offensively on forward which really completes their team. I’m sure confidence is really high over there.

Keefe on what he wants to see from Pontus Holmberg on the top line: 

“Just do what he does. The last game in Philadelphia is a good reflection. I touched on it yesterday. He was having a strong game to begin with, not just because he scored a goal but he made some plays, held onto pucks, and fought for the middle of the ice.

We gave him a shift with Auston after we lost Jarnkrok and that shift went really well. I was going to maybe going to move some other guys around, but then they had another good shift, so we just stayed with it. Then, they connected for a goal in the third period so the vibe is good with those guys and we want to stay with it.

Like I said yesterday, Holmberg got a run with Auston earlier this season and it’s times like that you want to do those kind of things if you can resort to it and it’s not as big an adjustment going into that spot.”

Rod Brind’Amour on the Maple Leafs:

“It’s always the same challenge. Top of the food chain players, and you have to be aware of them. They can win the game instantly. And they play a good system.”

Evgeny Kuznetsov on his friend, Ilya Samsonov: 

“You guys have been so hard on the players here in general. I’m so happy he doesn’t speak English well, so he doesn’t understand everything. That’s life here, more than life is for me. He doesn’t watch it and doesn’t read everything.”

Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. Hurricanes

In the season-to-date statistics, the Leafs hold the advantage over the Hurricanes in three out of five offensive categories, but the Hurricanes hold the advantage in five out of five defensive categories.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #34 Auston Matthews – #29 Pontus Holmberg
#74 Bobby McMann – #11 Max Domi – #88 William Nylander
#23 Matthew Knies – #91 John Tavares – #89 Nick Robertson
#24 Connor Dewar  – #64 David Kampf – #18 Noah Gregor

#78 TJ Brodie – #22 Jake McCabe
#44 Morgan Rielly – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#20 Joel Edmundson – #37 Timothy Liljegren

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov

Scratched: Ryan Reaves, Conor Timmins, Simon Benoit
Injured/Out: John Klingberg, Mark Giordano, Mitchell Marner, Calle Järnkrok

Carolina Hurricanes Projected Lines

#37 Andrei Svechnikov – #20 Sebastian Aho – #71 Jesper Fast
#59 Jake Guentzel – #92 Evgeny Kuznetsov – #88 Martin Necas
#48 Jordan Martinook – #11 Jordan Staal – #24 Seth Jarvis
#28 Brendan Lemieux  – #82 Jesperi Kotkaniemi – #23 Stefan Noesen

#74 Jaccob Slavin – #8 Brent Burns
#76 Brady Skjei – #22 Brett Pesce
#7 Dmitry Orlov – #5 Jalen Chatfield

Starter: #52 Pyotr Kochetkov
#31 Frederik Anderson

Injured/Out: Teuvo Teravainen, Jack Drury