It didn’t take Kirk Muller long to land back on his feet.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Muller has signed a two-year deal to be an assistant coach under Ken Hitchcock with the St. Louis Blues. Muller was only out of work for eight days as he was fired as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes on May 5. In three seasons as the Hurricanes coach, he had a 80-80-27 record.
Muller is familiar with Hitchcock as he played for him with the Dallas Stars in the final four years of his playing career and was a key veteran on the Stars’ Stanley Cup Final team in 2000.
Muller joins a Blues coaching staff that already includes Brad Shaw and Ray Bennett. Another set of eyes never really hurt anyone and he has served as an assistant once before with the Montreal Canadiens back in 2006.
Update: It’s official.
‘We are excited to add Kirk to our staff,” said GM Doug Armstrong in a release. “He was a Stanley Cup-winning player, and as a coach, has shown excellent communication skills, and the ability to relate to both young and veteran players.”
Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner has been a secret force for them this season. While the ‘Canes won’t be going to the playoffs, Skinner leads the team with 31 goals — the first time he’s broken 30 since his rookie season.
After staying mostly healthy this season, the 21-year-old showed what he’s capable of and coach Kirk Muller believes he’s capable of scoring 40 someday as Chip Alexander of the News & Observer shares.
“He’s had a few stretches where he didn’t have production and I think because he’s young that affects guys who score goals,” Muller said. “When you’re not scoring, you evaluate your game that way, and I think through maturity you learn that when you don’t score you work to keep the other things in your game. You just keep level-headed.
“When he does that and gets a little more consistent, he has the capability of scoring 40.”
When Skinner has been healthy, he’s been dynamic. He had a sophomore slump in his second season on top of dealing with concussion problems that held him to just 20 goals, but two seasons later now he’s back to being the player we saw in his first season. If he can be a 40-goal guy (he scored 50 in junior hockey), he’ll capture the hearts of Carolina fans all over again.
New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias has had a long career of putting up big numbers and to this point this season he’s put up 51 points.
For Elias it’s the 12th time in his career he’s had 50 or more points. He gives a lot of credit for his production to Adam Henrique as Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger shares.
“It’s also helped me by playing with Rico for the majority of the games and having something constant on the line,” Elias said. “Look at my first 40 games. I had two or three breaks in between because of injuries. You always fall out of rhythm, so that played a role. And I played with a different guy almost every night.”
Consistency and having a guy who’s also having a strong season in Henrique makes a lot of sense for how well Elias has done. Having Czech countryman Jaromir Jagr in the locker room has probably helped as well.
Elias is the most prolific scorer in Devils history. Hitting 50-plus points 12 times in his career is five more times than either Kirk Muller or John MacLean did it. Henrique is following the 37-year-old nicely with 43 of his own points and a team-leading 25 goals.
If ever there was a guy for the Devils to keep Henrique glued to it’s Elias.
Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner has been out of their lineup since October 24, but he might return to action as soon as tomorrow.
Skinner skated at practice on Thursday in a yellow non-contact jersey, but coach Kirk Muller believes he could play against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday as Chip Alexander of the News & Observer reports.
“When he feels he’s ready to go he’ll be a player,” Muller said.
Muller added that they’re getting players back and there will be some decisions to make. The Hurricanes have won three of their last four games and their one loss came in a shootout to the Minnesota Wild. Skinner’s return would almost certainly mean he’s back in, but the question moves to who would come out to make room for him.
For New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes fans, today’s morning skates provided plenty of optimism.
Rangers forward Rick Nash skated with the goalies today and while that won’t help narrow down when he may come back from his concussion, it’s a positive sign nonetheless. The two-time 40-goal scorer has played in just three games this season and was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on October 8.
The Rangers offense has bounced back in recent games, but going without Nash isn’t a good plan in the long run. Concussion recovery takes time, something GM Glen Sather knows all about.
“Obviously he’s on the road to recovery,” Sather said. “He wouldn’t be skating. He still has a ways to go.”
In Carolina, goalie Cam Ward was on the ice for the first time since going out of action with a lower-body injury.
Ward took shots and got a light test to see where he was at in his recovery. The Hurricanes have won two games in a row, but are without both Ward and his backup Anton Khudobin. Justin Peters has been leading the way in goal with both of them out of action.
Carolina coach Kirk Muller says Ward could rejoin the team at practice next week.