The lowly Los Angeles Kings have shown a few signs of improvement under first-year coach Terry Murray. His brother—Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray—saw his team get a lot worse under Craig Hartsburg, who he fired Monday.
The Senators hope firing Hartsburg will give them a spark as they host the Kings on Tuesday night.
Ottawa (17-24-7) was once a perennial powerhouse in the East, but on Monday the Senators dismissed Hartsburg for his involvement in what has been the team’s worst season in over a decade.
Ottawa, likely on its way to missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons, replaced Hartsburg with Cory Clouston, who was promoted from AHL’s Binghamton. Clouston is the Senators’ fourth coach since they appeared in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals.
Ottawa is in 13th place in the East, 14 points behind eighth-place Carolina for the eighth playoff spot. Bryan Murray said the decision to fire Hartsburg was made after a 7-4 loss to Washington on Sunday.
“We kept hoping there would be some change in our performance, which didn’t seem to be taking place,” Murray said during a news conference. “We just weren’t making any progress. We’re struggling to keep up.”
His brother’s team is also currently out of the playoffs, which it hasn’t reached in seven years. Los Angeles (20-21-7), though, is on pace to exceed last season’s total of 71 points.
That’s a point total the Senators will likely struggle to reach. Only two seasons ago, Ottawa reached the Stanley Cup finals for the first time, losing in five games to Anaheim. The Senators opened the following season with 15 wins in their first 17 games, but are 45-53-15 since.
Hartsburg struggled to find a combination to get the most out of Ottawa’s three offensive stars—Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. The trio’s scoring is down, and there has been little support from Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Chris Neil and Chris Kelly.
The Senators’ once-feared attack is now ranked 29th in the league with 2.40 goals per game.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, had scored at least five goals in winning three straight games before losing 4-3 at Montreal on Saturday. The Kings’ scoring is up partly because Terry Murray’s decision to put Kyle Calder on the second line has worked so well.
Calder has a five-game point streak (two goals, five assists), Brown has at least a point in five straight contests (six goals, four assists) and Stoll in four straight (three goals, two assists).
Brown and Stoll each had a goal and an assist for the Kings against Montreal, while Calder added two assists.
Los Angeles, though, let the game slip away, giving up two goals in the final two minutes in the opener of a five-game road trip. The Kings missed a chance to match their longest winning streak of the season, set from Nov. 6-13.
“At this point in the year—you can say what you want, but we need to start winning these games.” Brown said. “We’ve blown too many of these games, which are valuable points.”
Brown had an assist in last season’s matchup with Ottawa, with Los Angeles winning 2-0 at home on March 6.