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Cunneyworth set to make debut as Habs' coach

by John Kreiser

DEVILS (17-13-1) AT CANADIENS (13-12-7)


LAST 10: New Jersey 5-5-0; Montreal 3-3-4

Season Series: The teams are meeting for the second time this season, and the second Saturday night in a row. The Canadiens came to New Jersey a week ago and left with a 2-1 win.

Big Story: The Canadiens will have a new coach when they step onto the ice at the Bell Centre against the Devils. Prior to the morning skate on Saturday, GM Pierre Gauthier fired Jacques Martin, who led them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009-10, his first season behind the bench in Montreal. Assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth will take over on an interim basis.

Team Scope:

Devils: The best news for the Devils has been the re-emergence of Zach Parise as a premier player. He and linemates Adam Henrique and Ilya Kovalchuk ruined the Stars on Friday -- Parise had a goal and three assists -- including one each on goals by Henrique and Kovalchuk.

After missing most of last season with a knee injury that required surgery, Parise is healthy and confident again.

"I think his timing is coming back," coach Peter DeBoer said. "He's getting to the right places as the puck is getting there, which is what he's good at. Two weeks ago he was there a second early or a second late. I can't explain it, but I know speaking to him he feels like he's back to where he should be and it couldn't come as a better time for us."

Canadiens: Montreal has struggled to win at the Bell Centre, going 5-6-6 at home including a 4-3 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday. The Canadiens are also 4-4-4 in their last 12 games and weren't making any headway as they tried to dig out from a 1-5-2 start in their first eight games of the season.

"The firing of Jacques is a message to us players that the job hasn't been done well enough," center Lars Eller said. "It's not OK to be just OK. We have to be good."

Cunneyworth played more than 800 games in the NHL and coached the Habs' AHL farm team in Hamilton before becoming an assistant under Martin this season.

Who's Hot: Parise's four-point night against Dallas was his first since Jan. 29, 2010. He has five goals and 16 points in his last 11 games after getting just 11 points in his first 21 games. … Cole has goals in four straight games and leads the Canadiens with 12.

Injury Report: The Devils are playing without defenseman Andy Greene (broken foot) and forward Josef Jacobsen (broken clavicle). Center Travis Zajac (Achilles tendon) made his season debut Friday. … Montreal lost forward Travis Moen with a foot injury this week, and is already without captain Brian Gionta (lower body), center Scott Gomez (groin) and top defenseman Andrei Markov (rehab from knee surgery).

Stat Pack: If the game goes to a shootout, the Canadiens figure to be in trouble. New Jersey has a League-leading seven wins in the tiebreaker this season, losing only once. Montreal has won just once in six shootouts and have dropped all four at home.

Puck Drop: Barring injury, Martin Brodeur always plays for the Devils when they come to his home town, and Saturday should be no exception. Brodeur has a 7-8-0 record and a 3.09 goals-against average this season -- but he's 5-0-0 in his last five visits to the Bell Centre, allowing just five goals in that span, and 40-18-5 lifetime against the team he grew up rooting for.

"Marty's a great goalie; he's got the most wins, the most shutouts - you just have to say 'Marty Brodeur' and everyone knows what you're talking about," Montreal goaltender Peter Budaj told the team's website when asked about the winningest goaltender in NHL history. "I think it's special for him to come back home and play here, no matter how many times he's done it in the past 20 years. It's a good challenge for us but we were able to beat New Jersey in New Jersey, so hopefully we'll get back on a winning streak starting with tomorrow's game."

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