Hurricanes set to host Cole, Habs

The Carolina Hurricanes will try to match their longest winning streak of the season tonight, when they host Erik Cole and the Montreal Canadiens at RBC Center.

The Hurricanes ended a three-game skid with Sunday's home win over Toronto and then posted a victory the following night in Philadelphia. Carolina, which last won three in a row from Oct. 12-18, had lost seven of eight before recording the recent back-to-back victories.

Carolina lost 4-0 to the Canadiens a week ago in Montreal, as Habs goaltender Carey Price stopped all 25 shots sent his way. It was the fourth win in the last five meetings with the Hurricanes for Montreal, which has dropped two of three and four of its last six in Raleigh.

Cole, who has played 557 of his 641 career NHL games with Carolina, will be making just his second trip to North Carolina as a visiting player. The veteran winger also played a game in Raleigh with the Edmonton Oilers during the 2008-09 season. Cole's second stint with the Hurricanes ended this summer when he signed a four-year, $18 million deal with Montreal.

Cole's former team notched a 4-2 win Monday in Philadelphia, as Alexei Ponikarovsky had two goals and an assist for the Hurricanes. It was the first time since December 19, 2006 that the Hurricanes won in regulation in Philadelphia.

Chad LaRose scored a goal and added two assists while Jeff Skinner also lit the lamp for the Hurricanes. Cam Ward stopped 30 shots in the win.

"I thought our defense was really good, until we got into penalty trouble and it had fallen off a little bit, just fatigue had set in," said Carolina head coach Paul Maurice. "Our overall team defense, while there's still area to improve, it was markedly and decidedly better than it was a week ago."

The Hurricanes could get a key defenseman back tonight, as Joni Pitkanen is questionable after missing the last six games with a lower body injury. Pitkanen is leading Carolina defensemen with three goals this season.

Tonight's test marks the first of two straight on home ice for the 'Canes, who are 5-5-1 at the RBC Center this year.

The Canadiens have lost two of three and three of their last five games and were dealt a 1-0 loss Monday night by the rival Boston Bruins. Tim Thomas made 33 saves for his second straight shutout, as the Bruins earned their ninth straight win with the road triumph at the Bell Centre.

Price made 17 saves, including all 13 he faced in the last two periods, but the Canadiens couldn't solve Thomas.

"He definitely stoned us tonight," said Price. "He played really well but that's the type of game they've been playing for a while."

Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill has missed the last five games with an infection that required a hospital stay, but he is expected to return to the lineup tonight. The big blueliner has one assist and a minus-three rating in 16 games this season.

Fellow blueliner Jaroslav Spacek could sit out a fourth straight game tonight with an upper body injury.

Montreal has a 5-4-0 record as the guest this year and will play two straight and five of its next six games on the road.