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Northeast: Sens eye turnaround with new coach

by John McGourty
Cory who?

Don't get smart. New Ottawa Senators coach Cory Clouston has the history of a champion. Wherever Clouston has played or coached, championships have followed.

Clouston may be a mystery to some people who follow the NHL because he never played in the League -- or any other professional league -- but he was an excellent college player at the University of Alberta from 1989-93 and was a member of the Golden Bears team that won the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s hockey championship for coach Billy Moores, now an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers. UofA also won three league titles during Clouston's playing days.

That is important background information about Clouston because Moores was a disciple, player and assistant coach to Clare Drake, considered by many to be the greatest Canadian college coach of all time. Drake was insistent that his players master the fine details of the game, and Moores is cut from in that mold.

Clouston earned a degree in recreation administration and went right into coaching, serving first as an assistant with the Powell River Paper Kings of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League in 1994-95. He then became general manager and coach of the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (1995-99). During his four-year stay in Grande Prairie, his team compiled a .627 winning percentage (143-82-15) and he was named AJHL coach of the year in 1995-96.

Clouston then served three years as an assistant with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League before moving up to coach from 2002-07. Clouston had a 209-110-24 record with 15 shootout losses in 360 regular-season WHL games. He was twice named WHL coach of the year and was named Canadian Hockey League coach of the year in 2004-05 when the Ice had a 47-15-7-3 record and went to the conference final.

He was named coach of the Binghamton Senators in 2007 after repeating as WHL coach of the year and posted a 59-48-12-8 record in the AHL.

Clouston has also won at the international level. He was an assistant coach when Team Canada's Under-18 team won the 2005 U-18 Junior World Cup and won the tournament the following year as head coach.

Numerous Senators underperformed this season for now-former coach Craig Hartsburg. They will get one more chance under Clouston. But the kids who performed well for Clouston at Binghamton have to be encouraged about the possibility that they'll get a shot with the big club. Goalie Brian Elliott and forward Peter Regin are two players who progressed at Binghamton for Clouston and have done well in limited opportunities with Ottawa.

"I believe we have a core here – we don't have 20 complete players – but we have a core of players here that should be much more competitive than they've shown lately," General Manager Bryan Murray said at Clouston's introductory news conference. "This is why we didn't wait. Maybe I waited a couple of weeks too long but this is why I didn't wait any longer. I felt it was time to make a change, find out and see what we have to do before the year ends."

In recent weeks, the names of other, better-known coaches, were mentioned as possible replacements for Hartsburg but Murray stayed within the organization -- for a reason.

"He knows our players, he knows our prospects and I know he gets the maximum performance out of his players in the American Hockey League. I think he earned this job, I think he deserved this job and I want to give him a chance to be the guy here," Murray said. "The biggest thing is, I believe in the guys in this dressing room. It was only two years ago that this team was in the Stanley Cup Final. There have been some guys that have gone in and out of the lineup -- but for the most part, that nucleus is still there. They've shown they can do it and now it's a matter of getting back to that point."

A lot of people refuse to answer the phone during major sporting events -- my sister heard the final score of the TV tape-delayed "Miracle on Ice" game in 1980 and called my wife five minutes before the end -- but Clouston is glad he isn't one of them.

"I'm obviously very excited," said Clouston. "We just finished playing three games in three nights in Binghamton. (Sunday) was supposed to be a relaxing day watching the Super Bowl and the phone rang -- and here I am.

Old Lang's Sign-Off? -- Hopefully not but that was a very serious injury suffered Sunday by 38-year-old Montreal center Robert Lang, the Canadiens' leading scorer with 18 goals and team player of the month for January.

Lang suffered a severed Achilles tendon in a seemingly innocuous play during the afternoon game at the Bell Centre. Carrying the puck under pressure from Stephane Yelle, Lang slipped but few realized immediately how badly he was hurt.

Lang underwent surgery at Montreal General Hospital and is definitely done for the season. Whether he can rehabilitate the injury and return to playing will be complicated by his age and whether he feels like undergoing months of painful work for a goal that may not be achievable.

Lang is a class act, as he has proved while playing for the Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings, who drafted him in the seventh round in 1990. Lang has 252 goals and 422 assists for 674 points in 925 NHL games.

Lang holds an interesting distinction. He was leading the NHL in scoring during the 2003-04 season when the Capitals traded him to the Red Wings for Tomas Fleischmann, a first-round draft choice in 2004 and a fourth-round pick in 2006. It was the first time that an NHL player was traded while leading the NHL in scoring. He later suffered a broken rib and lost the scoring-race lead.

Lang burst into the North American consciousness in 1992 when he had 13 points in eight games at the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, to lead the Czech Republic to the bronze medal while finishing third in Olympic scoring. Two years later, he helped the Czechs win the gold medal at the World Championship. Lang was a member of the Czech Republic's gold-medal team at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Lang also represented his country at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics and at the 1996 and 2004 World Cups.


Teppo is back! -- One beloved veteran is lost and one is back. Teppo Numminen returned to the Buffalo Sabres' lineup for Wednesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at HSBC Arena. Numminen suffered a jaw injury that required surgery after being hit by a deflected shot in the Jan. 17 win over Carolina. He missed six games.

Buffalo went 3-3-0 while playing without regular defensemen Numminen, Andrej Sekera, Henrik Tallinder and Jaroslav Spacek. Chris Butler, Nathan Paetsch and Marc-Andre Gragnani did well in taking on added responsibility.

Gragnani, who can also play forward, was returned to the AHL Portland Pirates when Numminen was activated -- but he'll be back. Gragnani has to learn consistency to stay in the NHL. He looks great for a couple of games and then slips back. Coach Lindy Ruff has talked to him about this the last time he was demoted but he had good things to say about his young group of defensemen this time.

"We had to judge a lot of young guys by the way they played on the road in some tough buildings and I'm very impressed with the way they handled all the situations," Ruff said. "Take four of your starting six defenseman out of your lineup, put young guys in and win a couple games and you're saying a lot about how those kids played."

Sekera has missed eight games with an ankle injury. Spacek injured his hip during Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Phoenix. Tallinder has been out since Jan. 21 with a shoulder injury.
No. 1 ACC Star, again -- Bryan McCabe had to feel like the king of the world Tuesday night when he blasted a slap shot through Vesa Toskala to give the Florida Panthers at 4-3 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre in his return to the building and city where he played seven seasons.

McCabe wasn't part of the Maple Leafs' rebuilding plan under new coach Ron Wilson and was traded Sept. 2, the day after receiving a contracted signing bonus, to the Panthers for defenseman Mike Van Ryn and a fourth-round pick in the 2010 Entry Draft.

"It was obviously special for me, getting a goal like that in this building, it means a lot," McCabe said. "I was shooting all the way; I wasn't trying to make a pass in overtime on bad ice."

McCabe has a great sense of humor and it was on display after he was selected as the game's No. 1 star and was heartily booed by the Toronto faithful.

"Mixed reviews on the first-star selection," McCabe said of the fan reaction. "But I had some fun with it."

News and Notes -- The Canadiens called up six-foot-six Henry to replace Josh Gorges in Sunday's game against the Bruins. Gorges was hit in the head by an elbow from Los Angeles' Denis Gauthier on Saturday. Gorges missed his first game of the season, Gauthier got a five-game suspension. The game was only 1:06 old when Henry, called up Saturday morning from AHL Hamilton, dropped the gloves with Shawn Thornton. ... The Bruins have beaten Montreal in four of five meetings this season, but it was only Boston's second win in its last 15 games in Montreal since October 2006. Montreal swept all eight games from the Bruins last season. ... The Bruins haven't lost a game by more than two goals this season, and the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley asked three-time Stanley Cup winner Aaron Ward, the Bruins' veteran defenseman, why. Ward pointed across the locker room at goalies Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, the NHL's top goalie tandem.

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