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Carolina welcomes Laviolette back with open arms

by Mike G. Morreale
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Peter Laviolette will always hold a special place in the hearts of those fans of the Carolina Hurricanes.
A Stanley Cup championship will do that for a head coach, no matter what the future holds.
It's also why Laviolette, who coached the Hurricanes' for four-plus seasons and is now in his second year with the Philadelphia Flyers, was given a great ovation when introduced to the 16,680 at RBC Center at the start of the 58th NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover on Sunday.
"We really enjoyed our time here with the fans and the community, and settled in for five years," Laviolette said. "To come back and get an ovation like that is certainly special for me."
Flyers forward Danny Briere, who was playing for Laviolette as a member of Team Lidstrom, was glad his coach received such a warm welcome.
"I had chills myself and seeing it was cool," Briere said. "He's done a lot here and winning the only Stanley Cup in Carolina, you can tell, meant of lot."
Laviolette, who was joined on the bench by Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, watched his team battle back from a 4-0 first-period deficit to score a thrilling 11-10 triumph.
"Well, I didn't expect the first five minutes of the game to go as it went, but there's an awful lot of talent on the ice out there," Laviolette said. "There were a lot of nice goals and nice plays."
He laughed when asked about the irony in the fact he was coaching against Team Staal, which included his former Carolina players Eric Staal and Cam Ward and newcomer Jeff Skinner.
"That happens all the time," Laviolette said. "There are a lot of guys playing on different teams you play against and that's part of the business. But certainly, seeing Eric Staal and Cam Ward and even Rod Brind'Amour and Glen Wesley during the post-game introductions was something great. It brought back memories."
Laviolette, who was coaching in his first All-Star Game, felt getting to know the players on a personal level was the fondest memory he'll take from the event. His team included Steven Stamkos, Henrik Sedin, Tim Thomas, and three Blackhawks (Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith).
"The biggest thing you take away from something like this is you get to know players from a personal side," he said. "You get to spend a few minutes. I never talked to Henrik Sedin before, and I had some conversations with him. It was nice to get to know people a little bit."
Laviolette also had his entire family with him, making the All-Star experience that much more enjoyable. In fact, following his post-game press conference with the media, his wife gave him a big smile and hug.
At the time he was hired, the Flyers were in a tailspin. They were coming off their sixth loss in seven games, were ninth in the Eastern Conference at 13-11-1 and had been victimized by consecutive shutouts for the first time since February, 2003. Laviolette began instilling his brand of up-tempo hockey and the rest, as they say, was history.
He'd lead the Flyers to a 28-24-5 record in 57 regular-season games to end last season and reach the Stanley Cup Final -- losing in six games to Chicago.
Laviolette is now looking forward to closing out the second half of the season in the same fashion his team concluded the first. At the All-Star break, the Flyers led the League with 33 wins and 71 points.
"We have some tough games coming up here and everything ratchets-up a little bit … the intensity," Laviolette said. "Teams at the bottom, who may not make the playoffs, you want to make sure you're ready to play them. The intensity always seems to drive up a little bit as you approach the playoffs and that's what we'll be faced with."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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