Quebec-based nationalist group blasts Montreal’s decision to hire Cunneyworth

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Impératif Français, a Quebec-based nationalistic group, is denouncing the Montreal Canadiens’ decision to hire Randy Cunneyworth as interim head coach.

They’ve called the hiring of Cunneyworth — who, unlike many his Habs coaching predecessors, cannot speak French — a “bodycheck to Quebec,” and a “gross misconduct.”

“Being unable to speak French is a severe handicap for someone in that position,” the group wrote in a statement. “Knowing the French language is a pre-requisite for leading the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.”

The group has also called for a boycott of all Molson products. (The Molson family owns the Canadiens.)

Cunneyworth took over from Jacques Martin just prior to Montreal’s game against New Jersey, which the Habs would go on to lose 5-3. In doing so, he became Montreal’s first non-French speaking head coach since Bob Berry, who was behind the Canadiens bench from 1981-84.

Even with that history in place, many Quebeckers are still questioning the move.

“The coach of the Canadiens is the most scrutinized personality in Quebec, even more than the prime minister, Celine Dion and even [Quebec City mayor] Regis Labeaume,” wrote Denis Poissant of the Journal de Montreal. “And Cunneyworth can’t answer questions in French. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The decision to name Cunneyworth head coach has also come under fire from former NHLer Robert Sirois, best known as the author of Discrimination in the NHL: Quebec Hockey Players Sidelined.

“The Canadiens should be a source of national pride for all Quebeckers,” Sirois said. “Not an agent of anglicisation.”

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.

Gibson (lower-body injury) will play again this regular season, says Carlyle

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The Anaheim Ducks have been without goalie John Gibson for almost two full weeks because of injury, but head coach Randy Carlyle provided reason for optimism on Thursday.

Per reports, Gibson took part in practice and Carlyle has said that his No. 1 netminder will play again during the regular season. Anaheim has nine games remaining on its schedule.

That’s good news for Anaheim heading into the post-season.

While Gibson has been out, Jonathan Bernier has stepped beyond his back-up role and provided solid goaltending for the Ducks during the stretch drive — which should also be a bonus for this club with the playoffs quickly approaching.

Bernier has wins in six of his last seven starts. In nine games this month, he has only twice allowed three goals or more.

The Ducks have fought their way back into contention for the Pacific Division with a recent surge that has coincided with San Jose’s current skid — only four wins in their last 10 games and four straight losses.

Related: Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim