Peter Laviolette led the Carolina Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup title, but his 323-game run with the team ended bitterly with a midseason firing a little more than a year ago.
Laviolette will face his former team for the first time Saturday night as the visiting Philadelphia Flyers try to earn their first back-to-back victories in more than a month.
Laviolette took over for current Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice when he was fired with 52 games remaining in the 2003-04 season. After the NHL lockout wiped out the next campaign, Laviolette led the Hurricanes to a Southeast Division title and a seven-game victory over Edmonton in the Stanley Cup finals.
Carolina just missed the playoffs in each of the next two seasons, and Laviolette was fired on Dec. 3, 2008, following a 12-11-2 start. Maurice took over again and led the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference finals, where they were swept by Pittsburgh.
Like his former team this season, not much has gone right for the Flyers (16-18-2), and they turned to Laviolette to turn their fortunes around on Dec. 4 after firing John Stevens.
Philadelphia, however, has yet to break out of a 4-13-1 slump that started Nov. 20, but the Flyers did end a four-game slide Wednesday night in Tampa Bay.
It nearly looked like more of the same in the opener of a season-high six-game road trip, which includes the NHL’s Winter Classic against Boston on Jan. 1. Blair Betts(notes) and Mike Richards(notes) scored in the first 9:34, but Philadelphia allowed the Lightning to tie the game after two periods.
“When you get these, it’s a minor step,” Laviolette said. “It’s really important and the guys worked for it, especially in the third period. We need to follow it up with a whole bunch of big steps.”
Another step, the team’s first two-game win streak since Nov. 16-18, could come against the NHL’s worst club, who the Flyers have dominated since Laviolette’s days with the team. Philadelphia is 10-0-3 against Carolina (9-22-6) and is searching for its sixth straight win at the RBC Center.
The Flyers have also easily won both meetings this season, extending their win streak in the series to four.
Emery, however, is currently mending from surgery to repair a torn muscle in his abdomen and starter Brian Boucher(notes) suffered a lacerated finger in Monday night. That means Michael Leighton(notes) could face his former team for the first time since he was waived on Dec. 12.
He might not face much of a challenge as the Hurricanes have scored a league-worst 90 goals and been outscored 8-2 in consecutive defeats during a four-game homestand, which concludes Saturday. Brandon Sutter(notes) had his team’s only goal in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss to Montreal.
“We’ve got to start climbing the ladder. It’s Christmas time and we dug ourselves a big hole,” goaltender Manny Legace(notes) said. “There’s tons of hockey left. … It’s possible. The only problem is, we have to grab the same rope and pull at the same time.”