RALEIGH -- Erik Cole of the Canes had just finished with three assists and nine hits, and been named the game's second star in a 6-4 win Saturday over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the RBC Center.
All he was interested in, however, were the standings posted in the locker room that has a red line separating the top eight teams from the bottom seven. The Canes now have gone 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, yet still are one point out of eighth place and playoff position in the East.
"To be honest with you, I still feel like we're in the same position that we were," Cole said. "It still hasn't changed. We're still below the red line when we come in here tomorrow.
"We've been right there. Even with this stretch of games we've played, we've had some success, we're still right there. It just goes to show how tough it is."
The Canes came into Saturday's game off a 3-2 road loss to the Buffalo Sabres, their first defeat in regulation since Dec. 26. They were nine points behind Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division and three points out of eighth in the East.
But the Canes beat the Bolts. The Atlanta Thrashers were beaten 6-1 by the Dallas Stars on Satursday and are 3-5-2 in their last 10. They're now one point ahead of the Canes in eighth place.
"Maybe it's a good thing we didn't win a few (more) games and get above the red line," Cole said. "We would have been complacent. I think it has been part of our success: we come in every day and you look at that board and see where you're at and are fully aware of the situation you are in."
Cole now has four goals and five assists in his last seven games. He again was used on both the power play and penalty kill against the Bolts, and it was his hustle that helped lead to Eric Staal's shorthanded goal in the second that gave the Canes a 5-3 lead.
After Staal missed on a breakaway, Cole outfought Martin St. Louis for the puck along the boards and fed Staal for a second chance. Staal didn't miss the second time.
"Special teams were the difference in the game for us," Canes coach Paul Maurice said.