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Ottawa Senators replace coach Craig Hartsburg with Craig Clouston @NHLdotcom

OTTAWA - Craig Hartsburg is the latest coaching casualty of the Ottawa Senators.

He's been fired just 48 games into his tenure and replaced by Cory Clouston. Clouston was promoted from the AHL's Binghamton Senators and becomes the fourth different man to assume the coaching duties since Ottawa appeared in the 2007 Stanley Cup final.

"We kept hoping there would be some change in our performance, which didn't seem to be taking place," general manager Bryan Murray said during a news conference Monday morning.

Murray said the decision was after a 7-4 loss to Washington on Sunday.

"We just weren't making any progress," Murray said. "We're struggling to keep up."

With the trade deadline about a month away, more changes could be coming.

The Senators currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference standings with a 17-24-7 record. They are 14 points out of eighth spot and appear destined to miss the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

The coaching change comes less than a week after owner Eugene Melnyk held a news conference to say that he still believed in the team.

Rumours of a potential move first surfaced in December while the world junior championship was being held in Ottawa. Reports suggested that Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson might replace Bryan Murray as GM while Canadian coach Pat Quinn would relieve Hartsburg.

Melnyk responded by issuing a statement that said he had "made no decisions with respect to personnel changes," which was hardly a vote of confidence.

Only two seasons ago, the Senators were among the elite of the Eastern Conference, piling up 105 points and reaching the Stanley Cup final for the first time. They were beaten in five games by Anaheim.

The momentum carried into the following season, when the Sens won 15 of their opening 17 games. Since then, they have a losing record and barely managed to hang on for a playoff spot last spring.

The slide continued this season - even with a fresh voice in Hartsburg behind the bench.

Scoring statistics are down for the club's trio of offensive stars, Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, and there has been little secondary scoring as Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Chris Neil, Chris Kelly and others have gone cold.

Many point to the lack of a strong puck-moving defenceman as the main reason the once feared Ottawa attack has become among the lowest-scoring in the league.

In recent years, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Andrej Meszaros and Joe Corvo have been among the blue-liners moved out of Ottawa.

The team has also been in flux at the management level.

Murray, hired as coach in 2004, took over as general manager from John Muckler on June 18, 2007 while John Paddock was named coach.

Paddock was gone by mid-season, when Murray went back behind the bench. Hartsburg took over to start the current campaign but has been unable to get the team going.

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