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Muller excited about return to Canadiens

Associate coach relishes opportunity to improve power play in third stint with team

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com Correspondent

MONTREAL -- When Kirk Muller got a call from Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien about joining his staff, he was sold by the invitation to be part of an environment open to shared experiences.

After winning a Stanley Cup with Montreal as a player in 1993, Muller helped the Canadiens consistently fashion one of the top producing power plays in the NHL during his five seasons as an assistant coach under Guy Carbonneau, Bob Gainey and Jacques Martin from 2006-11.

Hired as an associate coach for his third stint in Montreal on Thursday, Muller once again will be responsible for the Canadiens power play, which finished 25th in the League (16.2 percent) this season.

"You look at the staffs that are put together in the NHL now, it's not about one guy," Muller said Friday from St. Louis via conference call. "It's demanding. There's a lot of work, a lot of time put in, and Michel's ability to delegate and give everyone responsibilities is what makes it really a fun challenge.

"Everyone knows I love Montreal. It's the third time I came back and it is top notch, first class from [Canadiens president and CEO] Geoff Molson down, and I'm just really excited that I have an opportunity that they want me back for a third time."

A St. Louis Blues assistant coach for the past two seasons, Muller decided not to return in the wake of the Blues' six-game loss to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

Therrien seized the opportunity to get in touch with Muller as soon as he learned he was available.

"You look at the fact that Kirk's got a lot of success with the power play, wherever he was," said Therrien, who pulled off the road in Pennsylvania to take part in the call. "When he was in Montreal, he had a lot of success. St. Louis, he had a lot of success, so this is a huge responsibility. It's a demanding responsibility but he was always capable to get a lot of success with it, so that's why we're all excited to have Kirk Muller on our staff."

St. Louis had the sixth-ranked power play with a 21.5 percent success rate this season. The Blues were fourth at 22.3 percent the previous season, Muller's first on coach Ken Hitchcock's staff.

While avoiding specifics about the Canadiens power play woes since he left the organization, Muller offered some insight into his philosophy about playing with the man-advantage.

"I think in today's games, some of the things that are really common denominators if you watch the power plays that are so successful, is guys that are willing to be net-presence guys," Muller said. "That's where it really starts. A lot of movement and a lot of being unpredictable. 

"Like having guys that have a lot of movement on the outside, having a shooting mentality, and then most top power plays are going from the ability to be a threat from your shots, net presence, and then being creative and making plays so that you've got several options to attack from all areas and have all five guys very involved. 

"So the personnel's there and it's our responsibility to find the strengths of the guys and make them work together and come up with some positive results."

Muller said he was familiar with a core of players on the Canadiens from his previous tenure on the coaching staff, including defensemen Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban, and forwards Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec, all key components of Montreal's power play along with defenseman Jeff Petry and younger forwards Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk.

"Well, you've got guys like Markov [who is] very calm, can make a play," Muller said. "He's got the ability that he's so mobile that he can get his shots through. You've got P.K. [who has] obviously got the great skating ability, he's got the great shot, he can make plays, he's unpredictable. You've got guys like Plekanec, a good playmaker guy, he calms things down. Gallagher is the type of guy that could go to the net, you know, that's where his bread and butter is.

"So you've got playmakers, you've got guys willing to go to the net, and you've got shooters, and I don't want to not mention other guys and all that, it's just a matter of sitting down and seeing the strengths of the guys, where they fit in there, and where the right chemistry works that they can really connect with each other."

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