A coaching change has started to turn around the Chicago Blackhawks' season. The St. Louis Blues hope a change will do the same for them.
Andy Murray makes his debut behind the Blues' bench on Tuesday when they meet the resurgent Blackhawks at Scottrade Center.
Mired in a seven-game losing streak and last in the league standings, St. Louis (7-17-4) fired Mike Kitchen on Monday night after a dismal 1 1/2-season stint during which the Blues' streak of 25 straight playoff appearances ended.
Kitchen finished his first head coaching job with just 38 wins in 131 regular-season games since replacing Joel Quenneville in February, 2004. Kitchen's frustration boiled over after ceremonies on Dec. 5 to retire Brett Hull's No. 16 jersey resulted in a 5-1 loss to Detroit.
"How can you not get ready for tonight's game?" he said that night. "You just look around. You've got a full building, there's a lot of electricity in the air, and they're not ready to play? Come on!"
Team president John Davidson said change was needed.
"You look at this thing and we realize we're a team that's trying to rebuild," Davidson said. "We just want more, that's all. We'll see where it goes with Andy. We need a more concerted effort."
Murray is the Kings' career leader with 215 victories, but was fired with 12 games left last season while Los Angeles was in a playoff race. The Kings were tied with Edmonton for seventh in the Western Conference when interim coach John Torchetti took over, but failed to reach the playoffs.
"Andy comes to us with extensive experience and a very successful coaching pedigree," Davidson said. "He is one of the most prepared coaches in the NHL and I believe that he is the right person for the job."
What Murray inherits is a team that hasn't won a game in regulation since a 5-3 home win over Edmonton exactly one month ago, going 2-9-1 since with both wins coming on the road via the shootout. The Blues also have scored a league-low 65 goals despite adding Doug Weight, Martin Rucinsky and Bill Guerin, who scored his team-leading 12th goal in Kitchen's final game - a 5-1 loss to Columbus on Saturday.
Kitchen was the fourth coach to be fired this season, joining Gerard Gallant in Columbus, Ken Hitchcock in Philadelphia and Trent Yawney in Chicago. Hitchcock was hired by the Blue Jackets, and Yawney was replaced by longtime Blackhawks assistant Denis Savard.
The Blackhawks' resurgence under Savard continued with a 4-1 win over Edmonton on Sunday. Martin Havlat scored his team-leading 10th goal, and his third in two games after missing more than seven weeks with a sprained ankle.
"It was fine, just a couple of tweaks, but nothing major," Havlat said of his ankle. "The points are just a plus."
Chicago (11-12-5) has picked up 11 of a possible 14 points under Savard, who has yet to lose in regulation since taking over for Yawney on Nov. 27, compiling a 4-0-3 record.
The Blackhawks were 0-for-10 on the power play Sunday, and are just 1-for-49 with the man advantage over the last 11 games. The Blues, meanwhile, have allowed power-play goals in three straight games.
Savard said 38-year-old forward Peter Bondra may play in this contest after he was signed to a one-year deal on Sunday. A two-time 50-goal scorer, Bondra needs two goals to become the third player this season and 37th all-time to reach 500 for his career.
Anaheim's Teemu Selanne and Toronto's Mats Sundin also reached 500 career goals earlier this season.