He scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 1993. He served as team captain in 1994-1995. He helped guide the team to the playoffs four out of five years as an assistant coach. Tonight, Kirk Muller returns to Centre Bell for the first time as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes to face his former team as the Hurricanes (20-25-11) take on the Montreal Canadiens (23-24-9).
Even without the fanfare of Muller's return, the Hurricanes have much to prove in tonight's match-up, having suffered one of their most uninspired performances of the season the last time the two teams met in Montreal, a 4-0 loss on November 16th. The Canes also lost to the Habs in overtime on home ice on November 23rd.
Former Canadien Jaroslav Spacek, who spent part of three seasons in Montreal, also makes his first return since being acquired by the Canes in exchange for Tomas Kaberle on December 9th.
Jiri Tlusty hopes to continue his hot streak with points in four straight games; he has already set career single-season highs for goals (12), assists (10), and points (22).
Canes News and Notes
As reported yesterday, the Canes have recalled forward Jerome Samson to replace Drayson Bowman, who was reassigned to Charlotte. Samson will have an opportunity to play tonight in front of a hometown crowd, having grown up just a short distance away in Greenfield Park, Quebec.
Hurricanes: Canes Recall Jerome Samson From Charlotte
Charlotte Checkers: Samson Recalled; Bowman Returns
Jaroslav Spacek has been quite outspoken about the fishbowl that is hockey in Montreal. He was quite candid in yesterday's post practice interview.
Hurricanes: Jaro Spacek 2/12 post-practice interview
TSN.ca: Spacek returns to face Habs, explains earlier comments
And showing his well-known mischievous side, this tweet from Dave Stubbs (Montreal Gazette):
@habsinsideout1: I asked #Canes Spatcho if he still had #Habs room key. "I still have the code," he replied, grinning. "I might have to go cut some laces"
There's no shortage of press regarding Muller's return. From yesterday:
Montreal Gazette: Ex-Canadien Kirk Muller readies for return to Bell Centre
Hockey Inside/Out: Audio: Captain Kirk comes home
Hurricanes: Kirk Muller 2/12 post-practice interview
Hurricanes: Tracking the Storm - Spacek, Muller Return to Montreal
And from today:
News & Observer: Canes coach heads back to old home
Hockey Inside/Out: Kirk's Canes on the upswing
Projected lines for the Canes:
- Tuomo Ruutu - Eric Staal - Jiri Tlusty
- Chad LaRose - Jeff Skinner - Jussi Jokinen
- Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
- Jerome Samson - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart
- Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
- Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
- Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain
- Cam Ward is expected to start in net, backed up by Justin Peters.
|2011 - Cam Ward||49||2863||20||18||133||2.79||1508||1375||.912||3|
Defenseman Derek Joslin is expected to be a healthy scratch. Joni Pitkanen (knee/concussion) and Brian Boucher (lower body) remain out of the lineup on injured reserve.
Not directly game-related, but worthy of a read, from this morning's News & Observer, Luke DeCock has a feature about Mike Chiasson, son of the late Steve Chiasson:
NewsObserver.com: Son of Canes' Chiasson makes own name on ice
Habs News and Notes
The Canadiens did not practice on Sunday, after spoiling a night honoring Mats Sundin with a 5-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs. A week ago they were in last place in the Eastern Conference but thanks to four straight wins they now sit in the 11th spot. Key to those four wins has been the performance of All Star goaltender Carey Price, who has only allowed four goals (including two shutouts) while starting all four games for the resurgent Habs.
Max Pacioretty is on fire with five goals in the last four games and currently leads the Habs in points (42). Ex-Cane Erik Cole remains solid in scoring with 20 goals and 21 assists, which ties him with Hurricanes team leader Eric Staal (41 points).
The Canadiens also made roster moves on Sunday, recalling forwards Ryan White (from a conditioning stint) and Ian Schultz. Both players (known mostly for their sandpaper) have played 3 games in 3 days with the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. It is undetermined whether either will be in the lineup or where they will be slotted (they are in town and available for tonight but not participating in the Habs morning skate). I'll post the projected lines if made available this afternoon. Carey Price is expected to start in net, backed up by Peter Budaj.
|2011 - Carey Price||48||2908||21||19||112||2.31||1367||1255||.918||4|
|2011 - Peter Budaj||8||484||2||5||22||2.73||233||211||.906||0|
For other Canadiens news and updates, check out SBNation affiliate Habs Eyes on the Prize.
If there are any other updates following the morning skates, I'll publish an edit later this afternoon.
Gametime is 7:30 pm on Fox Sports Carolinas or WCMC 99.9 The Fan. We'll have the open game thread starting at 7:00 pm. See you there.