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Noel understands situation facing Lightning coaches

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- When Daniel Lacroix, Martin Raymond and Steve Thomas assume interim coaching duties for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets, they will find a kindred spirit in the coach standing behind the Winnipeg bench.

The trio will serve as Tampa Bay's interim coaches while Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman searches for a full-time replacement for Guy Boucher, who was fired late Saturday night.

Jets coach Claude Noel replaced Ken Hitchcock with the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2009-10 season. Noel, an assistant coach on Hitchcock's staff, took over Feb. 3, 2010 and finished the season with a 10-8-6 record. The Blue Jackets did not retain Noel after the season.

Yzerman said Sunday that he is aiming to replace Boucher quickly, but did not commit to a specific timeline. Stepping in for a former colleague, as Lacroix, Raymond and Thomas are for Boucher, is far from ideal, according to Noel.

"The one thing that you know in that situation is that you have a sense of what's going on," Noel recalled of his experience in Columbus. "It's really uncomfortable. It's not something you like. Didn't enjoy that at all."

While Noel finished the season in Columbus as the Blue Jackets finished 14th in the Western Conference that season, it does not appear likely that Yzerman will allow the current interim situation to last very long -- possibly ending before the Lightning's next game, Tuesday at home against the Buffalo Sabres.

"The hard part about when somebody gets [fired] is what are you if you're the guy that comes in?" Noel said. "Are you the interim guy? In my case, I was the interim guy for the rest of the year. That's nearly impossible, because it's like coaching with handcuffs on. Nobody knows anything, so it's hard. It gets all mixed up."

"It's hard when you're a player and that happens," Noel added, "because clearly when you're a player, the target starts to point to you."

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