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Cole returns to Raleigh as Canadiens visit 'Canes

by Pete Jensen

CANADIENS (9-9-3) at HURRICANES (8-11-3)

TV: RDS (HD), FS-Carolinas (HD)

Last 10: Montreal 5-4-1; Carolina 3-7-0

Season Series: Wednesday marks the second of four meetings between these Eastern Conference foes. They met last Wednesday at Bell Centre, where Montreal's Carey Price earned the shutout and a secondary assist in a 4-0 win.

Big Story: Erik Cole, who earned an assist in the win against the Hurricanes last week, faces his former team in Raleigh for the first time since signing with the Habs during the summer. The Hurricanes, who dropped seven of nine games to kick off the month of November, are coming off back-to-back victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers. Meanwhile, the Habs are coming off a narrow defeat at the hands of the defending champion Boston Bruins on Monday.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Montreal's offense ranks 21st in the League (2.52 goals per game), but the Canadiens' recent play has seen their scoring chances drastically improve.

After scoring 11 goals in a three-game span, the Habs outshot Boston 33-18 on Monday night. But despite Price allowing only one goal in his bid for a third consecutive shutout, the Canadiens were held scoreless on home ice in a 1-0 defeat.

"We've been doing a pretty good job of limiting chances with a five-man defensive posture," Michael Cammalleri said. "Generally that's a pretty good formula. The only problem is we didn't capitalize on some of our chances. You can't win if you don't score."

Hurricanes: With the Hurricanes in desperate need of a spark as their November woes mounted, two areas that hindered Carolina all season suddenly got the wheels turning in the right direction.

Carolina's power play, among the bottom five in the NHL at 13.1 percent, perked up during the two-game win streak. Jussi Jokinen scored a power-play goal in Sunday's win against the Leafs, while Alexei Ponikarovsky notched a pair with the man advantage in the Hurricanes' 4-2 win at Philadelphia on Monday. The power-play improvement was complemented by the stellar play of Cam Ward, who allowed a total of four goals in the two wins.

"Cam's been huge the whole year, so he made some key saves at some key times and that's what you need out of your goalie," Jeff Skinner said. "Not only do you need the big saves, but when it matters and he makes them when it matters."

Who's Hot: Price blanked the Hurricanes and New York Rangers last week before falling just short of another shutout in Montreal's loss to Boston. In his last three games combined, Price has stopped 59 of 60 shots on goal. … Jokinen has a goal and two assists in Carolina's two-game win streak.

Injury Report: Hal Gill (virus) will be back in the lineup Wednesday, while Jaroslav Spacek (upper body) did not travel with the team and will not play. Andrei Markov took another step in his recovery when he practiced Tuesday with contact for the first time since suffering a knee injury on Nov. 13, 2010 at Carolina. Chris Campoli (lower body) and Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body) practiced on their own on the second ice at the practice facility on Tuesday, but remain on IR. … Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen (lower body) is listed as questionable.

Stat Pack: Alexei Ponikarovsky scored twice and assisted on another goal in the Canes' win in Philly on Monday. It marked Ponikarovsky's 12th career game with three or more points -- but the first for a team other than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Puck Drop: Cole will be playing at the RBC Center for only the second time in his career as a visiting player - he played against the 'Canes once before during his stint with the Edmonton Oilers in 2008-09. Cole was selected by Carolina in the 1998 NHL Draft and has played 557 career games as a member of the Hurricanes.

"It will feel a bit odd going to the rink and heading over to the other side," Cole told the Montreal Gazette. "I don't think we even did a morning skate last time I was a visitor there, so it'll be different, for sure."

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