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Bryan Murray hopes return to bench sparks struggling Ottawa Senators @NHLdotcom

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Bryan Murray felt a bit wobbly on skates, running his first Ottawa practice since June.

Murray got his bearings by the end of practice on Thursday. Now he has to figure out how to do the same for the slumping Senators.

"It doesn't matter who the new guy is that takes over," Murray said after a short skate. "There are people who worry about where they fit. I just wanted them to all know that this is our hockey team, this is a good hockey team."

Murray fired John Paddock on Wednesday with only 18 games left in a season that is in danger of falling apart despite a 15-2 start. Murray, who led the Senators last season to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals, returns to the coaching bench for the remainder of the season.

"I read somewhere where people said I was waiting for this happen. It's the opposite," Murray said. "I had a great run at coaching and was very happy in the role I had."

Murray felt he had to make the move after describing the Senators as a "very passive group" over a stretch where they lost six of eight and 14 of 21. Paddock thought the undisciplined and unmotivated play of late could be corrected down the stretch, starting with Thursday night's game at Philadelphia.

The Senators won 15 of their first 17 games and were first in the Eastern Conference until last weekend, when they were passed by New Jersey. They have since fallen behind Pittsburgh, too, in points.

Ottawa holds a one-point lead in the Northeast Division over Montreal.

Things got especially bad on Monday, when the Senators lost 5-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game Paddock called a "total embarrassment." Ottawa lost the next night 4-0 to the Boston Bruins.

"When you lose some games and the pressure mounts, and it's mainly pressure from within, it's hard to play, it's hard to relax, it's hard to coach," Murray said.

Murray will retain his duties as general manager, which should lessen following Tuesday's NHL trade deadline.

Murray moved up shortly after the Anaheim Ducks beat the Senators 4-1 in the Stanley Cup finals to become the general manager last summer. Paddock went from being Murray's assistant to his replacement as head coach.

Assistant coach Ron Low was also fired Wednesday, a day after the team was shut out for the second consecutive game.

"Whether it was fair or unfair, I just felt I want to be the guy here and I'll take the responsibility," Murray said. "I'm not afraid of that."

Daniel Alfredsson, who leads the Senators with 35 goals and 75 points, said the move hadn't sunk in yet.

"It's still a bit shocking, to be honest," he said.

Paddock was in his sixth season with the Senators organization. He posted a 36-22-6 record in his lone season as head coach.

Paddock, who coached the Eastern Conference in last month's NHL All-Star game, was offered another role in the organization.

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