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A ‘change had to be made’ — Bergevin explains firing of Therrien

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The way Marc Bergevin sold it, the firing of Michel Therrien had everything to do with the way the Canadiens were playing and nothing to do with, well, anything else.

It didn’t happen because Claude Julien suddenly became available.

It didn’t happen because the owner stepped in.

It didn’t happen because Carey Price was never the same after that game in December when Price glared at the bench after being pulled.

And it had nothing to do with that reported meeting in Arizona that Bergevin held with his team leaders, and without Therrien.

It was simply this — after starting the season 25-9-6, the Canadiens are 6-10-2 in their last 18 games. On Sunday, in Therrien’s last game behind the bench, they got blasted, 4-0, in Boston.

“We were not the same team as we were earlier on,” Bergevin said at a press conference today. “There was something missing. The team’s performance showed that there was something not right, and the change had to be made.”

The general manager did want to clear one thing up, about that meeting in Arizona that caused such a buzz back home in Montreal.

“I want to be clear on this, because that was blown out of proportion,” he said. “Michel and I had a meeting in the morning, and we were talking like we talk every day, and I mentioned that I was going to meet some players and (I invited him) to join me. And Michel said, ‘You know what, Marc? Today’s a day off for the team, for the coaches. Maybe you just go alone.’

“So Michel was aware of the situation, and it was not about Michel Therrien, my conversation (with the players). I’m not going to go into detail what we talked about, but it was not about Michel.”

Surely, though, last week’s firing of Julien by the Boston Bruins was partly related to the timing of Therrien’s dismissal.

“I just felt we weren’t playing the way we’re capable of,” said Bergevin. “So, everything happened for a reason. Maybe the timing was — you know, Claude let go by Boston last week — but I didn’t make my decision based on how Boston operates, that’s just not how I did it, no.”

Read more: No real surprise that Therrien was fired

Looking ahead to the March 1 trade deadline, Bergevin left the door open for some minor tinkering. However, he insisted that a young prospect like Mikhail Sergachev would not be sacrificed for a short-term fix.

“It’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen,” Bergevin said. “As you see, there’s barely any trades in the NHL, and there’s a reason why. You make your team in July, you hope you stay healthy, and you try to address some needs at the deadline. But again, it’s what the price is going to be. And if it’s asking for our young prospect, it will not happen.”

Did you hear that Joe Sakic in Colorado?

The Canadiens’ first game under Julien is Saturday against Winnipeg.

“In my opinion, with his track record, he’s a superstar,” Bergevin said of his new bench boss. “He’s a great coach. I think his record speaks for itself.”

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.