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No real surprise that Therrien was fired

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Sunday’s 4-0 loss was the last straw.

In a twist, it came at the hands of the Boston Bruins.

Two days later, with his players on their bye week, Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin announced that he’d fired Michel Therrien as head coach and hired Claude Julien.

Julien, of course, was fired last week by those very same Bruins.

The sudden availability of Julien obviously influenced Bergevin’s thinking. It is not easy to hire a head coach in Montreal, where proficiency in French is expected, in addition to everything else. Julien has already coached the Habs once before. In fact, he replaced Therrien back in 2003.

The Canadiens enjoyed limited success under Julien, reaching the second round of the playoffs in 2004 but going no further. He was fired in January of 2006, replaced by then-GM Bob Gainey.

A bit more than a decade later, with a Stanley Cup title under his belt, Julien returns to take over a Canadiens team that sits first in the Atlantic with a record 31-19-8. Though first place is good, with just one victory in February, it’s been hard not to recall last year’s collapse, which came under Therrien’s watch.

Granted, that collapse had a lot to do with Carey Price‘s injury. But the trading of P.K. Subban for Shea Weber hinted at turmoil behind the scenes. Throughout it all, Bergevin stuck with Therrien, whose relationship with Subban had been constantly put under the microscope.

Lately, the talk in Montreal has surrounded 23-year-old Alex Galchenyuk. Is he a center? A winger? That’ll be up to Julien to decide now. Therrien was heavily criticized for not trusting Galchenyuk at the center position, which comes with added defensive responsibility. On that note, it will be interesting to see how Julien handles that situation, given he’s been criticized himself for not trusting young players enough.

As for Bergevin, he may not be finished making changes. The Canadiens could use another center, regardless of where Galchenyuk plays. They’ve been linked to Arizona’s Martin Hanzal, a pending unrestricted free agent. The trade deadline is only two weeks away.

Montreal’s next game is Saturday at home to Winnipeg.

“I would like to sincerely thank Michel for his relentless work with the Montreal Canadiens over his eight seasons behind the bench, including the last five seasons when we worked together,” Bergevin said today in a release. “The decision to remove Michel from his coaching duties was a difficult one because I have lots of respect for him.

“I came to the conclusion that our team needed a new energy, a new voice, a new direction. Claude Julien is an experienced and well respected coach with a good knowledge of the Montreal market. Claude has been very successful as an NHL coach and he won the Stanley Cup. Today we hired the best available coach, and one of the league’s best. I am convinced that he has the capabilities to get our team back on the winning track.”

Devils sign d-man Michael Kapla

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The New Jersey Devils have signed UMass-Lowell defenseman Michael Kapla to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Kapla, 22, had three goals and 27 assists in 41 games this season. He’ll report to the Devils and likely burn the first year of his ELC by making his NHL debut sometime very soon.

The Devils host the Winning Jets tonight. They’re in Brooklyn Friday to play the Islanders.

Kapla spent four years in college. Per the Devils’ press release, he “most recently captained the River Hawks to the 2017 Hockey East Championship. He also received Hockey East All-Tournament Team honors and was named to the Hockey East Second All-Star Team.”

 

Report: Penn State sophomore Pedrie leaves school, signs with Rangers

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For the second straight day, the Rangers have landed an undrafted college free agent.

Vince Pedrie, a sophomore blueliner that just wrapped his sophomore campaign at Penn State, has reportedly agreed to terms with the Rangers on an entry-level deal, per the Collegian.

Citing a post from Pedrie’s Facebook account confirming the move, the Collegian reports the 23-year-old is the youngest Nittany Lion in program history to leave the team for the professional ranks.

It comes after Pedrie emerged as a “dominant offensive force” for the club last season, racking up 30 points in 39 games while helping Penn State qualify for its first NCAA championship appearance.

As mentioned above, this is the second intriguing prospect to join the Blueshirts in as many days. On Monday, University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri agreed to join the team after an impressive four-year career with the Gophers.

Hjalmarsson says ‘Hawks are ‘too comfortable’ after rough trip through Florida

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When most people take trips to Florida, it’s to get away from the stress and struggle of everyday life. But it’s safe to say that this edition of the Chicago Blackhawks won’t want to remember their visit to the Sunshine State.

The ‘Hawks dropped an embarrassing 7-0 decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night before blowing a 4-1 lead in last night’s game against the Bolts (they eventually lost 5-4 in OT).

They still have a comfortable lead atop the Central Division (eight points up on the struggling Wild), but they aren’t satisfied with their play.

“It’s getting close to the end here and we’re getting a little bit too comfortable maybe,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said, per the Chicago Tribune. “As soon as you do that, you’re going to lose games … At the same time I’m glad that we were playing like this before the playoffs so we can make some adjustments.

“Eighty-two games is a long season. It’s a mental grind more than anything. As soon as you’re not there 100 percent, it’s going to show in the scoring.”

As Hjalmarsson said, six games is still enough time to figure things out for Chicago. They just won’t have the luxury of facing easy opponents when they do try to sort out their struggles.

They’ll play the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday before returning home to play Columbus and Boston. They’ll then head back on the road to close out the season in Denver, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

PHT Morning Skate: This season’s top five breakout performers

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Jake Allen wore a special U.S. Navy tribute mask during last night’s game against the Coyotes. It’s really a gorgeous mask. “The blue and yellow complements our colors well, and it’s a great tribute to the Blue Angel pilots who have the honor of flying and performing across the country.” (NHL.com/Blues)

–With every NHL season, there are surprises and disappointments. Rather than focus on the negatives, The Hockey News breaks down the top five breakout seasons in 2016-17. At the top of the list is Panthers forward Jonathan Marchesault, who is shockingly closing in on a 30-goal season. Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson and Boston’s David Pastrnak have also made names for themselves. (The Hockey News)

–It’s no secret that NHLers are forced to travel a lot, but each team makes the most of their road trips in different ways. For example, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Capitals enjoy fine dining when they’re away from home.  “It’s so easy to go to the top names or the ones that you hear of all the time, but when you go to a lot of these cities, the food scenes everywhere now are really starting to improve. A lot of my friends naturally are foodies. They bring me to some of their places. Even just a simple Google, most of the times, the first two things that come up are Yelp or TripAdvisor, and I usually go a couple down and look at a local newspaper, if they have the best spots to eat in 2017. I like to focus on those.” (Washington Post)

–The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves down 4-1 in lasts night’s game against Chicago, but they were able to battle back and win in a thrilling overtime period. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Tonight will mark the first time that Jordie and Jamie Benn play against each other since the trade that saw the older Benn head to Montreal. The Canadiens took the opportunity to ask their Benn some questions about what it was like growing up with his brother. Here’s a sample question: “Of the two of you, which one is Peyton and who is Eli?” (NHL.com/Canadiens)

–This year’s rookie class with Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski, Mitch Marner and Matt Murray is one of the best in recent memory, but which other freshmen classes stand out? BarDown takes a look at the top five rookie classes since 2000. (BarDown)

–Capitals forward Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky had some fun during picture day. The two players showed up to the rink with some pretty poofy hair. There’s no point in me trying to explain it when you can see the pictures for yourself. (NHL.com)