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Maurice's second stint as Hurricanes' coach ends

by Dave Lozo
The second time wasn't the charm in Carolina for Paul Maurice.

The coach was fired by the Hurricanes on Monday, bringing his second stint with the team to an inglorious end. The Hurricanes were 8-13-4 under Maurice this season, leaving them in 14th in the Eastern Conference, though just five points out of a playoff spot.

Initial reports are that Kirk Muller will replace Maurice behind the bench. Muller spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens before taking the head-coaching job with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, a minor-league affiliate of the Nashville Predators.

The Hurricanes will hold a press conference at some point Monday afternoon.

Maurice was brought back to coach the Hurricanes during the 2008-09 season after Peter Laviolette was fired on Dec. 3, 2008. Maurice guided the Hurricanes to a 33-19-5 record over the season's final 57 games and took the club to the Eastern Conference Finals, where Carolina was swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins.


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After missing the playoffs in the final game last season when all they needed to do was beat the Tampa Bay Lightning at home but lost 6-2, the disappointment continued this season. No one has been more disappointing than captain Eric Staal, whose dreadful start has been a big part of the Hurricanes' struggles. In 25 games, Staal has 5 goals, 6 assists and a League-worst minus-17 rating.

"I naturally have always put a lot of pressure on myself," Staal told the Raleigh News & Observer last week. "Sometimes you kind of make it harder on yourself than you want. I wanted to get off to a good start. Didn't happen.

"I didn't think I was playing bad, but you're accumulating minuses and don't feel good about yourself. And then, you start to feel like you're getting better, you have a good game and you're still not producing and getting points. It can get frustrating. It can wear on you. I go home and it's tough to leave it at the rink."

Franchise goaltender Cam Ward has also underperformed. In 21 starts, the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is 8-10-3 with a 3.10 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who signed to a three-year, $12.75 million contract by GM Jim Rutherford during the summer, has just 5 assists, a minus-10 rating and was a healthy scratch for Sunday's game against the Ottawa Senators.

Rutherford spoke to the Raleigh News & Observer before the weekend about what his mindset was with the team and its coach.

"I am looking at everything, (but) no decisions have been made," Rutherford said. "I have a lot of ideas in my head, but I have not come to any conclusions yet. Once we get through the weekend we'll have a better idea of the overall picture and where we're going."

The 4-3 loss to the Senators apparently sealed Maurice's fate.

During this tour of duty in Carolina, Maurice went 116-100-30 but never returned to the playoffs after his first season. During his first eight-plus seasons as Hurricanes coach from 1995-2003, which included the final two years the franchise was the Hartford Whalers, he went 268-291 with 99 ties and 16 overtime/shootout losses. The Hurricanes went to the franchise's first Stanley Cup Final in 2002 and lost in five games to the Red Wings.

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