RALEIGH, N.C. -- A 63-game detour.
That's all Erik Cole's trade to Edmonton in July was. At the trade deadline in February, the big, hard-hitting winger returned home to Carolina, the team that drafted him and gave him a chance to get his name on the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Cole's and the Hurricanes' chances of winning the title again this season appear extremely slim because of their 3-0 deficit against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference final going into Game 4 tomorrow night.
He is glad to be back, though.
"It's a group I enjoyed being a part of, and I can't say enough great things about the guys," Cole said. "It's great to be back."
Two of Cole's four assists this postseason have come in this series, which for him has been limited to two games because he missed Game 2 with a knee injury.
Cole had a good idea he would be shipped off by the Oilers, for whom he had 16 goals, 27 points, but he had no clue beforehand there would be a three-team deal that included Los Angeles and returned him to Carolina.
"I guess 'surprised' is the best adjective for it. I didn't expect it," he said.
"When it turned out to be Carolina, it turned out to be the best situation for my family. It's a good situation for me. It's an organization I owe a lot to in terms of giving me the opportunity to play."
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice has some simple advice for his team in the face of elimination tomorrow night.
"Most importantly, don't view the whole picture; just get a small glimpse," he said. "We need some belief. We clearly have to win the next game to have a chance to play again.
"The reason we've gotten here is that we stay and fight as long as we possibly can. Now we're at a point there's no tomorrow. I don't know how many cliches that is, but just insert your favorite cliche at this point."
One shortfall Maurice sees is too many errant shots.
The Penguins have outshot Carolina, 113-87, in the three games, but the Hurricanes have shot and missed the net 35 times and the Penguins have blocked another 53.
That means a hair more than 50 percent of their attempts haven't reached goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
"That's way too high a number to be in the shooting range to not get something through," Maurice said. "Just some quickness [missing]."
Maurice has had a prime viewing spot to watch Penguins centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who have taken over the series and, to a large extent, the playoffs. Malkin leads all players with 28 points, Crosby has 14 goals among his 26 points.
"Malkin is a completely different body and style, but similar results," Maurice said. "Sidney Crosby's spin-off moves make it very difficult to beat him."
Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who lives in North Carolina, sounded the Hurricanes' warning siren at RBC Center before Game 3 in the previous two series, but against the Penguins he is scheduled to perform the ritual before Game 4 here tomorrow night.
That's apparently not part of a revised strategy, but rather because Cowher had other plans for the holiday weekend.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.