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Metropolitan Division notebook

John Madden enjoying coaching in AHL; Lee Stempniak comfortable with Hurricanes

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Since landing his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League on Aug. 29, John Madden has found himself at the epicenter of the professional sports universe.

While the Monsters were in Des Moines, Iowa for a game against the Iowa Wild last Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers were raising their NBA championship banner at Quicken Loans Arena and the Cleveland Indians were hosting the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series.

"It's been pretty crazy, especially with the Cavs getting their championship rings last week and the World Series games," Madden said. "It's been fun around here."

Madden, 43, is enjoying the excitement, but hasn't had a chance to take in any of the Indians' postseason games in person. He has been busy learning on the job with the Monsters, the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are coming off a championship themselves after winning the Calder Cup last season.

He was hired Aug. 29, four days after Jared Bednar was hired as coach of the Colorado Avalanche. It was a quick turnaround to get ready for training camp and coaching Blue Jackets prospects at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, which began Sept. 16.

Although Cleveland is 3-5-0-0 after losing its past three games, Madden said he's "really enjoying it."

"I'm very fortunate to be here in Cleveland," he said. "It's a great organization. Everything's great. The arena's great. We play in the same arena as the Cavs do. Everything is kind of like the NHL except for the travel and they really take care of you. We have a really good team. They're coming off a championship. We've got some good things going on here, so it's a good situation for me."

A three-time Stanley Cup winner during a 13-season NHL career, Madden worked the past three seasons as an assistant coach under Gerard Gallant with the Florida Panthers, but left that job after last season. Madden had a connection with Cleveland through his former agent, Bill Zito, who is the general manager. And Madden was looking to take the next step in his coaching development.

After interviewing with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and president of hockey operations John Davidson, Madden got the job and went to work.

"I know there were other people they were talking to as well, but it happened fairly quickly," Madden said. "I was hoping to get an opportunity to be a head coach somewhere, and hopefully continue and maybe make the jump to the NHL one day. But I've got a lot to learn and that process has just started."

The biggest adjustment has been getting used to being the person in charge of pretty much everything.

"When I was coaching the defense [in Florida], I had only eight [defensemen] to worry about and six of them played most of the time." Madden said. "I'd just go over their video and it was real easy. Now we're carrying 23, 24 guys, so every time someone plays you've got to relook at their video and see what's going on and how can you help them. There's a lot of little things that go into your daily planning, practice planning. You're involved in every little aspect of the entire day.

"It's a lot of work, but also a great learning experience."


Stempniak 'a new person' again

The Carolina Hurricanes are back on the road, to face the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, FS-CR, NHL.TV), after playing their first two home games against the New York Rangers on Friday (3-2 win) and the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday (4-3 loss). 

Because of the North Carolina State Fair, the Hurricanes opened the season with six consecutive road games and went 1-3-2. Now they play three of their next four on the road.

Although the Hurricanes' 2-4-2 start is disappointing, the silver lining to their road-heavy schedule is they've had plenty of time to get to know each other outside of the rink.

"We've got a lot of new faces here, some young guys, so it's good to do some team dinners and sort of branch off and go in different groups to dinner with guys and just spend more time together," right wing Lee Stempniak said. 

Stempniak, 33, is one of those new faces after signing a two-year contract worth $2.5 million per season with the Hurricanes as an unrestricted free agent July 1, but he has a lot of experience at this. The Hurricanes are his 10th NHL team, two behind Mike Sillinger's League record of playing for 12 teams.

Skating on a line with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask, Stempniak is off to a good start with four goals and two assists in eight games.

"I feel pretty comfortable being a new person," he said. "As I've gotten older, you kind of know people that played with other people and you turn out to have some mutual friends, so you have a good feel for the people you're going to meet. It's a matter of being yourself and bringing your personality. For the most part everyone in hockey is a good person and people tend get along really well."

Video: CAR@PHI: Stempniak takes advantage of Flyers turnover


Stat pack

Rask has points in Carolina's first eight games (four goals, six assists), the second-longest streak to start a season in Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers history behind Ron Francis' 11-game point streak to begin 1984-85. … Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux has equaled his NHL career-high with points in nine consecutive games (two goals, 10 assists). He is tied with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers for the League lead with 12 points. … New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh has a career-high seven-game point/assist streak (eight assists). According to Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Rangers defenseman with at least one assist in seven consecutive games since Brian Leetch from Nov. 16 to Dec. 1, 1996. … With a 31-save performance in a 6-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, Rangers backup goalie Antti Raanta improved to 21-4-4 with a 1.85 goals-against average, .933 save percentage and four shutouts in 33 career home games.


Games to watch

Washington Capitals at Winnipeg Jets (Nov. 1, 8 p.m. ET; TSN3, CSN-DC, NHL.TV) -- The Capitals wrap a four-game road trip. Jets rookie Patrik Laine faces his idol, Alex Ovechkin, for the first time in an NHL game. This also is the first game of a home-and-home series that concludes Nov. 3 at Verizon Center.

Detroit Red Wings at Philadelphia Flyers (Nov. 2, 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV) -- The Red Wings and Flyers play for the first time this season in a Wednesday Night Rivalry game. The Flyers went 2-1-0 against the Red Wings last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks (Nov. 5, 10:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, ROOT, NHL.TV) -- The Penguins return to SAP Center for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup there with a 3-1 victory against the Sharks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 12. The Penguins came back from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Sharks 3-2 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Oct. 20.

Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins (Nov. 8, 7 p.m. ET; ROOT, SNW, NHL.TV) -- The finale of a five-game road trip for the Oilers. McDavid plays against Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for the first time in the NHL. McDavid missed both Oilers games against the Penguins last season because of a fractured collarbone.

New York Islanders at Florida Panthers (Nov. 12, 7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG+ 2, NHL.TV) -- A rematch of an Eastern Conference First Round series last season. John Tavares scored in double overtime of Game 6 to put the Islanders in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1993.

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