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NHL-worst Capitals fire coach Hanlon, promote Boudreau from AHL @NHLdotcom

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -Glen Hanlon was fired as coach of the NHL-worst Washington Capitals on Thursday, with the team off to its slowest start in 26 years.

Hanlon, in his fourth season at the helm, was told of the decision a day after loud boos and chants of "Fire Hanlon!" echoed through the arena during a 5-1 home loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, Washington's fifth consecutive defeat.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by Bruce Boudreau, the coach of the Hershey Bears, Washington's American Hockey League affiliate.

Boudreau was to run the Capitals' practice Thursday morning, then make his NHL coaching debut Friday at Philadelphia.

Boudreau, who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks, is familiar with several of the Capitals' players, having coached seven current members of the roster at Hershey, which he led to the 2006 Calder Cup title.

He takes over a club that is 6-14-1 for 13 points, four fewer than any other team in the league through Wednesday. After beginning the season 3-0, the Capitals have lost nine of 10 games, and 15 of 18, leaving them with their lowest 21-game point total since having 12 in the 1981-82 season.

Expectations among the Capitals - from team owner Ted Leonsis right down to star forward Alex Ovechkin and other players - were high entering the season, because of the addition of a few free agents and the team's top pick in the 2006 draft.

But other than Ovechkin, the team has had plenty of trouble scoring, and the problems have spread to other areas in recent games. Washington keeps falling behind and failing to recover, going 1-10-1 when opponents score first, and turnovers and poor line changes have been increasing.

Hanlon leaves his first NHL head coaching job with a 78-123-9-29 record.

After Wednesday night's loss, he was asked whether he believes his players can turn things around.

"Of course I do - or I wouldn't go in tomorrow," Hanlon replied, his voice soft and words slow. "You never stop believing. That's the real hard part of handling losing, is that you can never stop believing. ... I believe in the players."

The Capitals promoted Hanlon from assistant coach to head coach in December 2003, replacing the fired Bruce Cassidy. Washington wound up finishing last in its division that season, as well as in each of Hanlon's two full seasons.

But after slumping to 27th in the 30-team NHL in both 2005-06 and 2006-07, the Capitals came into this season counting on being an improved club, an optimism reflected in the motto, "New Look. New Season. New Attitude."

Leonsis proclaimed "the rebuild is over" in an interview with Associated Press reporters and editors two days before the start of training camp, while Hanlon spoke early in the regular season about the team being ready to "shift from development to winning."

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