Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin told reporters Thursday that coach Claude Julien was rushed to the hospital Wednesday night after experiencing chest pains following Montreal's 2-1 loss to Philadelphia in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Bergevin said Julien, 60, is being kept under observation at the hospital and that his condition has nothing to do with COVID-19. Julien will not return for the remainder of the Flyers series, and the Canadiens are not sure whether he will eventually re-join the team in the NHL bubble in Toronto or return home. In the interim, Kirk Muller will take over head coaching duties.
"He's for sure in really good hands," Bergevin said of Julien on Thursday (via Sportsnet). "I spoke with him this morning, and we're hoping for the best for him right now."
#Habs Dr. David Mulder had positive news this afternoon regarding Julien’s condition.l and relayed it to Bergevin.— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) August 13, 2020
#Habs Weber says there was shock and concern about Julien’s health, and that this will be added motivation for the team, wanting to rally around their head coach.— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) August 13, 2020
Asked whether Julien's family will travel to Toronto, Bergevin suggested that would not be necessary.
I know Claude talked to his wife early morning," the GM said. "No, I don’t believe (his wife) is on her way here. Like I said, he’s in good hands at the hospital here and everything should be fine and we hope for the best. There was some positive news so hopefully (he) could be ready shortly and get back home."
Julien is in his second stint as the Canadiens' coach after holding the same position from 2002 to 2006. He coached the Devils for one season and then the Bruins for another 10 years, winning the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011, before he returned to Montreal in 2017.
Muller, 54, played four seasons for the Canadiens from 1991 to 1995 in the middle of a 22-year NHL playing career that also included stops in New Jersey, New York, Florida and Dallas. He split Montreal captaincy with Mike Keane for 1994-95 season.
Muller started his second stint as a Canadiens associate coach in 2016 after serving the team in that capacity from 2006 to 2011. He was hired as the Hurricanes' head coach in November 2011 but was fired from that role in 2014.
"Kirk (Muller), Dominick (Ducharme) and Luke (Richardson) will share the responsibility, however, Kirk is the associate head coach and he will assume the responsibility of head coach until Claude’s return," Bergevin explained. "We understand that Kirk does not speak French, but there are exceptional circumstances, and we are asking you for your understanding."
The Habs are down 0-1 in their playoff series with the Flyers.
"I have faith in (the players)," Bergevin said. "We beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s not the coaches that beat them, it’s the players. We have the same group, and I told them last night, I think without going into detail, we were a little maybe nervous the first 20 (in Game 1 against Philly), but after that I felt our team was coming.
"We play hard, we competed hard, and I expect the same thing tomorrow."
Added Canadiens captain and defenseman Shea Weber on the team's newfound motivation: "I think in these situations there's always a little bit of an emotional factor, and like Marc said, a shock factor, obviously. Everybody learned about this this morning, and the biggest concern is obviously (Julien's) health and we want to make sure he's healthy first.
"But I think that that's something that for sure we can draw on and use that — as if we weren't motivated in the first place, but this just draws a little bit more out of that."