A disappointing start to the season has led to a coaching change for the Montreal Canadiens.
Just hours after Jacques Martin was fired, the last-place Canadiens will take the ice with former assistant Randy Cunneyworth making his NHL head coaching debut Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.
With Montreal (13-12-7) in the Northeast Division basement and on pace to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007, Martin was relieved of his duties Saturday morning after 2 1/2 seasons.
"When we are where we are and expect to be a better team than we've been, you definitely are aware there might be changes," forward Michael Cammalleri said. "For it to be Jacques was somewhat surprising.
"We're in 11th place, that's what went wrong. I think Jacques was still trying to work on things and improve the team. I don't think there was anyone not listening to him."
Now they'll have to listen to Cunneyworth, promoted to the Canadiens' staff this season after serving as head coach for their AHL club in Hamilton last season. He spent the previous two years as an assistant with Atlanta, his only other coaching experience in the NHL.
"We weren't playing together and doing the things we need to do to win," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "And consequently we lost games we shouldn't have lost and changes needed to be made."
The ironic part of the change, though, is that the Canadiens weren't playing too poorly. They recorded at least a point in six straight games going into Thursday's matchup with Philadelphia, and that game was tied in the third period before the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers won 4-3.
One of Montreal's biggest problems has been the power play, third-worst in the league at 12.1 percent.
Those issues are unlikely to go away against New Jersey, which has the NHL's top penalty-kill unit at 93.1 percent.
The Devils (17-13-1) have won six in a row at Montreal while allowing only one power-play goal in the Canadiens' 19 chances.
However, New Jersey's only loss in its last six games was a 2-1 defeat to Montreal last Saturday. The Devils have bounced back to win three in a row and are coming off their highest-scoring game of the season, a 6-3 victory over Dallas on Friday.
It was the third time in five games the Devils scored at least five. Zach Parise had one goal and three assists while Ilya Kovalchuk scored the go-ahead goal and added an assist.
Parise, who has a five-game point streak in Montreal, has four goals in the last five games after recording one in the previous 12.
"That's the way it should be," said Kovalchuk, who has six goals in the last nine games. "He's too good a player to not get his share of points. Especially with Travis (Zajac) back now, and we have some depth, we should be able to continue this."
Zajac, who had 13 goals and 31 assists last season, played for the first time this season after missing 30 games because of an Achilles' tendon injury sustained in the offseason.
Martin Brodeur, who started last weekend's win over Montreal, is expected to be back in net in his hometown after Johan Hedberg started Friday. Brodeur is 7-8-0 with a 3.09 goals-against average this season, but he's won his last five visits to Montreal while posting a 0.91 GAA.
Canadiens winger Erik Cole has scored in four straight games to increase his team-leading total to 12. He had a goal and an assist in the win over the Devils last weekend.
"We can't seem to go on a run and string together some wins in the way other teams are doing," Cole said.
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