Cole, Habs host struggling Hurricanes

In the midst of a five-game road losing streak, the Hurricanes head up north to Montreal and the Bell Centre, where they have had a great deal of success over the past few seasons.

Once on the other side of that good fortune, Canadiens forward Erik Cole is now tasked of slowing down his former Carolina mates in tonight's meeting, just his second ever against the club that originally drafted him.

The Hurricanes selected Cole in the third round of the 1998 draft and he made his debut with the club in 2001-02. He went on to spend the bulk of his first nine NHL seasons with the Hurricanes, minus a 63-game stint with the Oilers in 2008-09. It was then that Cole faced Carolina on Nov. 1, 2008, registering two shots without a point.

Cole was traded back to the Hurricanes in March of that campaign and re-signed with Carolina for two more seasons before inking a four-year deal with the Habs this summer. The 33-year-old, who won a Stanley Cup with the 'Canes in 2006, totaled 168 goals and 363 points in 557 games with Carolina.

"I'm a pretty friendly guy on the ice and chatty, so I'm sure I'll be chirping these guys quite a bit," said Cole of the pending matchup, calling it a game within a game. "It will be fun."

Carolina hasn't had much fun on the road lately, dropping five straight since a victory in Boston on Oct. 18. The Hurricanes snapped a four-game overall slide with a home win over Pittsburgh on Saturday, but was then handed a 5-3 defeat by visiting Philadelphia two days later.

Cam Ward started the game in net for Carolina, but was pulled in the second period after giving up four goals on 17 shots. Brian Boucher stopped 10-of-11 the rest of the way.

"I thought we got better in the later parts of the game," said Carolina head coach Paul Maurice. "But we were in a big hole by the time we were ready to play and their goaltender came up with some good saves."

Patrick Dwyer scored his first two goals of the season, both shorthanded, including one on a penalty shot.

"It's nice to get them. I knew I wasn't going to go all year without scoring, but it would be nice to get a "W" too," said Dwyer after his first career two- goal game.

Though the Canadiens took three of four from the Hurricanes a season ago, Carolina is 8-2-2 in its last 12 trips to the Bell Centre. Eric Staal has 15 goals and 31 points in 26 career games versus the Habs.

Defenseman Joni Pitkanen is questionable for Carolina tonight after missing his second game in a row on Monday with a lower-body ailment.

Montreal is going through its own injury issues. Andrei Kostitsyn has missed the Canadiens' last four games with a lower-body injury, while Hal Gill (illness) and Mike Cammalleri (lower body) also sat out Monday's 3-2 shootout loss to Buffalo.

In addition, Jaroslav Spacek (upper body) and Andreas Engqvist (lower body) left the setback early with injuries and could add to Montreal's total of 76 man games already lost this season.

"I'm sure there's been worse situations for other teams," said Cammalleri. "Injuries are part of the game and it's something we have to deal with and move forward."

Not helping Montreal's roster is the fact the club has played three straight games past regulation. The Habs recorded consecutive overtime wins in Phoenix and Nashville before Monday's home setback to the Sabres.

Max Pacioretty had a goal and an assist and Cole scored for the Canadiens, who got 30 saves from Carey Price in defeat.

Pacioretty is tied for the team lead in points with 14, matching the total of Tomas Plekanec, who had a pair of goals and seven assists versus the Hurricanes last year.