The Eastern Conference standings posted in the Canes locker room at the RBC Center are a constant reminder of how things, well, stand.
For now, the Hurricanes (6-9-3) sit in 13th place, tied with the Winnipeg Jets with 15 points, leading only the New York Islanders (11 points.) That's how they stand going into Montreal to face the Canadiens -- and Erik Cole -- on Wednesday following the 5-3 loss Monday to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Canes are 2-5-2 on the road this season. Interestingly, the Habs are 7-7-3 overall but just 2-4-3 at home after a 3-2 shootout loss Monday to the Buffalo Sabres.
"They're another quick team," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "I don't think there are any slow teams left, to be honest with you.
"Everybody is playing a version of the same game in terms of when they get the puck. If they have anything off the rush they're going to try and take advantage of it. If not it's going deep and they're going to work your 'D' with a good high man. Then, who's got the confidence, the courage to stay with it the longest wins."
Going to Montreal will mean seeing Cole on the opposing side for the first time this season. Cole left the Canes after last season to sign a free-agent contract with the Habs and now is one of those speed guys on the wing the Canes must deal with.
"That will be weird, playing against him," Canes forward Tuomo Ruutu said today. "After playing with him for so long, we know he's a really good player and know what he's capable of. We really have to be ready for him."
Cole had a power-play goal Monday against the Sabres, and has four goals and four assists in 17 games. Hewas part of the most talked-about play in the game: his collision with Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth early in overtime that resulted in a goaltender-interference call against Cole.
After Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins flattened Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who suffered a concussion from the hit, the Sabres did not like seeing Enroth go down after the glancing blow by Cole in the crease. Cole was not used in the shootout.
Of Cole, Maurice said, "We'll try to get a matchup we think can skate with him out there and try to deny him the puck, but I would expect he will be at his finest."
Eric Staal, Brandon Sutter, Chad LaRose and Jussi Jokinen all missed practice today, as did goaltender Cam Ward. Maurice called it a maintenance day, saying there were some minor bumps and bruises but that all should play against the Canadiens.
Maurice said in a stretch of seven games in 11 days, the focus would be on "trying to keep the legs fresh in a real tough stretch of hockey with some travel in there."
Maurice said there had been no change in Joni Pitkanen's status, and that the defenseman should be out at least a week.