Mike Halford

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Deja vu all over again: Habs fire Therrien, hire Julien

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In a bold, dramatic move that will undoubtedly shake up his floundering club, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin has fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien — exactly one week to the day that Julien was fired by the Bruins.

“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 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.”

Per ESPN, Montreal asked for permission to speak with Julien on Sunday.

Just days later, the 56-year-old is now back for his second stint in Montreal, having coached the club from 2003-06. This also marks the second time he’s replaced Therrien as the Canadiens’ bench boss.

(Of note, there are only two roster holdovers from the last Habs team Julien coached: Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec.)

Since leaving Montreal, Julien achieved tremendous success in Boston, capturing the ’09 Jack Adams and ’11 Stanley Cup. He also left as the organization’s all-time leader in coaching wins.

As for Therrien, his dismissal comes with the club having plateaued since its 13-1-1 start to the year. The Habs are just 18-18-7 since but, following Sunday’s ugly 4-0 shutout loss in Boston, still remained atop the Atlantic Division. Per Sportsnet, Therrien is the first head coach to be fired with his team leading the division since Ottawa fired John Paddock in 2008.

It’s probably worth noting the last time Therrien was fired, he was the head coach in Pittsburgh. Pens GM Ray Shero turfed him on Feb. 15, 2009 — almost eight years to the day — and replaced Therrien with Dan Bylsma.

Bylsma, of course, led the club to the Stanley Cup months later.

More to follow…

Goalie nods: Smith, 27, to make NHL debut for Avs

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Colorado will get to look at another goalie in the system tonight.

Jeremy Smith, the 27-year-old journeyman that’s spent all year in AHL San Antonio, will make his big league debut when the Avs take on the Devils in New Jersey.

Smith, originally drafted back in 2007, has played almost exclusively in the American League during his career, with stops in Milwaukee, Springfield, Providence, Iowa and finally San Antonio, where he’s 5-8-0 with a .911 save percentage and 2.57 GAA this season.

Prior to tonight, the closest Smith came to the NHL was with Boston, who recalled him from the minors a few times. But he never saw game action with the B’s.

Tonight’s start comes after the Avs shut No. 1 Semyon Varlamov down for the year, which left them with a Calvin Pickard-Spencer Martin duo. Martin, who made his NHL debut back in late January, has since been returned to the minors.

Martin, 21, was likely sent back to save his confidence. It was a big ask for him to play at the NHL level in this stage of his career, made even bigger by asking him to play behind the worst team in the league. Martin’s only in his second full season of pro hockey and, unsurprisingly, struggled to an 0-2-1 mark with the Avs, posting a 4.35 GAA and .865 save percentage.

For the Devils, Cory Schneider starts in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Vancouver will start Ryan Miller after Jacob Markstrom beat the Sabres on Sunday. Matt Murray also returns to the net after a night off, as Marc-Andre Fleury played (and lost) on Saturday.

— The streaking Isles will stick with Thomas Greiss in goal when they take on the Leafs in Toronto. Greiss will square off against Frederik Andersen, who has lost three straight while posting an .887 save percentage over that stretch.

Robin Lehner goes up against his old team, as the Sabres invade Ottawa. Craig Anderson makes his second consecutive start since rejoining the Sens, having posted a 33-save shutout in his return on Saturday.

John Gibson has struggled lately, losing three of four while posting a .898 save percentage. He’ll look to get things on track tonight in Minnesota. The Wild, as they almost always do, are starting Devan Dubnyk, who’s emerged as the favorite for the Vezina Trophy.

Connor Hellebuyck starts again for the Jets, as Ondrej Pavelec is out hurt (he was placed on IR today). The visiting Stars will go with Antti Niemi, who starts for the first time in three games.

— It’s Cam Talbot versus Louis Domingue as the Oilers host the Coyotes in Edmonton.

Desperate Stars get Spezza back from five-game absence

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Dallas needs wins, and in a major way.

So the club is no doubt pleased with today’s development — Jason Spezza, out since Feb. 2 with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup when the Stars take on the Jets in Winnipeg.

Ironically enough, Spezza’s return comes against the same team that put him on the shelf. Two weeks ago, Jets forward Adam Lowry rocked the veteran center with this hit:

That put the 33-year-old on the shelf for five games, during which Dallas went 1-4-0. That includes Sunday’s disheartening loss in Nashville, in which the Stars blew a 3-0 lead.

Spezza’s one of the best setup men on the team, trailing only Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in assists, so it wasn’t surprising to see him take line rushes at center alongside Seguin at the morning skate.

The Stars are hoping his return provides a spark. They head into tonight’s game six points back of L.A. for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Parenteau acknowledges ‘there’s a chance I get moved’

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P.A. Parenteau’s been through this before.

Last year, he racked up a team-high 20 goals in Toronto. That led to predictions he’d be shipped out during the Maple Leafs’ deadline fire sale yet, when the smoke settled, Parenteau was still a Leaf.

This year, he’s continued to produce — 13 goals and 25 points through 53 games — and knows that if the Devils fall out of playoff contention, he could be subjected to another round of trade rumors.

“I went through it last year,” Parenteau said, per NorthJersey.com. “I was having a really good year and I didn’t get traded. Who knows? The market changes every year.

“I’m aware of my age, and when I sign a one-year deal like that, if the team is going to be out of playoff contention, there’s a chance I get moved.”

The 33-year-old joined the Devils after getting scooped off waivers from the Isles at the start of the campaign. There have been ups and downs in New Jersey, including a healthy scratch in mid-December, but Parenteau did said he “wants to stay” with the club, adding his priority is to “win games, and that’s the way I’m not going to get traded.”

One would think teams will kick the tires.

Parenteau carries a modest $1.3 million cap hit and Devils GM Ray Shero got out in front of the deadline last weekend, when he shipped Vern Fiddler to Nashville for a fourth-round pick.

Last year, Shero was active in selling assets for picks. He sent Lee Stempniak to Boston for a second- and fourth-rounder, then moved Eric Gelinas to Colorado for a third.

The Devils head into tonight’s action five points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. But they’ve got to jump four teams to get there — the Flyers, Islanders, Panthers and Lightning — which is a tall order, to say the least.

With the Mar. 1 deadline just weeks away, Parenteau could become a popular name.

“I feel like I’m still a good player,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot to give. We’ll see where that takes me.”

Blues place Stastny on IR

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When Paul Stastny was hurt in last week’s win over Toronto, the Blues said they didn’t think the injury was long-term.

But now, it appears a little more serious than first thought.

St. Louis placed Stastny on IR Tuesday, after he sat out Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Habs. Head coach Mike Yeo acknowledged it’s a significant loss for the club, which is back in action tomorrow in a Rivalry Night game against Detroit (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

“He’s usually the first guy over the boards for a power-play faceoff or the first guy over the boards for a penalty-kill faceoff, and those are key,” Yeo said, per the Blues website. “He’s a very important player for us. You don’t take out a top-line center from too many lineups where they don’t feel that.”

Stastny had been on fire since the dismissal of former head coach Ken Hitchcock, racking up six points over his last five games (in which the Blues went 4-1-0).

The 31-year-old currently sits fourth on the team in assists and points, while averaging 19:25 TOI per night, so he’s clearly a big part of the St. Louis attack. And given the Blues have already lost Robby Fabbri to a torn ACL, they certainly didn’t want to be down the services another productive forward.

“We have more than capable players,” Yeo said. “Our focus is on the guys that are in the lineup and if we take care of our job, we give him a chance to get better and obviously we’ll be stronger when he gets back.”