LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles Kings fired coach Terry Murray on Monday after a slow start to a season of high expectations.
Murray was replaced by assistant coach John Stevens, who will be an interim head coach.
Murray was behind the long-struggling Kings' bench for their best moments in the past decade, leading Los Angeles to consecutive playoff appearances after an eight-year absence.
Murray has the highest winning percentage (.560) of any coach in Los Angeles franchise history, but the Kings lost both of their first-round playoff series while under his direction, and Murray clearly has struggled to reach his current club, which is mired in mediocrity after entertaining hopes of contending for the Stanley Cup.
Los Angeles has lost four straight games to drop to 13-12-4, culminating in a lifeless effort in a 2-1 home loss to Dallas last Saturday. The Kings have sunk to 11th place in the Western Conference standings while scoring just 65 goals, second-fewest in the NHL.
Stevens, Murray's longtime associate and the Philadelphia Flyers' former coach, will take over when the Kings open a four-game road trip Tuesday night in Boston.
Murray lost his job largely because the Kings have struggled to score goals despite adding Mike Richards and Simon Gagne in the offseason while boosting the club's payroll to its highest level in several years. Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi believes his club has the talent to compete with the NHL's best teams, but just three players have scored more than five goals this season, and most of the Kings' forwards are mired in scoring slumps.
Murray went 139-106-30 with the Kings after taking over the club in 2008. Los Angeles earned 46 victories apiece in the past two seasons and 199 total points, the most in any two-year stretch for the club.
Murray was under contract through next season.
Stevens is the 23rd head coach in Kings history. He led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference finals in 2008, but joined the Kings' staff after Philadelphia fired him the following season.