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Panthers debut new coach against Senators

by Brian Hunter

PANTHERS (3-9-4) at SENATORS (6-6-4)


Last 10: Florida 1-5-4; Ottawa 4-4-2

Season series: This is the first of four meetings between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators, new Atlantic Division rivals. The Senators beat the Panthers twice in a four-day span early in the 2012-13 season, but Florida rebounded for a 2-1 win in the most recent matchup on April 7, when Scott Clemmensen made 40 saves.

Big story: While the Senators aim for a third straight win, the Panthers will debut an entirely new coaching staff following the dismissals Friday of Kevin Dineen along with assistants Craig Ramsay and Gord Murphy. Florida has lost seven in a row and 10 of its past 11. Peter Horachek, who had been coaching the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, takes over on an interim basis. John Madden and Brian Skrudland will be his assistants.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Two seasons ago, Dineen led Florida to a Southeast Division title and its first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 12 years. The Panthers stumbled to a 15th-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season, and after struggling out of the gate in 2013-14 general manager Dale Tallon decided to pull the plug on Dineen following a 4-1 loss Thursday to the Boston Bruins.

In a conference call, Tallon said firing Dineen was "one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make." Speculation has been rampant the Panthers are looking to shake up their roster as well, and Tallon did nothing to squash that.

"This is the first of many changes we're making," he said. "If the players don't respond to this, they won't be Panthers for very long."

Senators: Coming into the week, Ottawa was being viewed as a disappointment in the Eastern Conference. The Senators had dropped five in a row, giving up 20 non-shootout goals along the way. They got off the schneid Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets before starting a five-game homestand Thursday against the archrival Montreal Canadiens.

Picking up right where they left off in last spring's five-game elimination of the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Senators got Bobby Ryan's ninth goal of the season and goals from defensemen Marc Methot and Mark Borowiecki 37 seconds apart in the middle period of a 4-1 victory. Robin Lehner turned in another strong outing in goal with 33 saves as Craig Anderson recovers from head and neck injuries.

"At this point in time, Robin is the goalie," coach Paul MacLean told The Ottawa Citizen. "Craig is still day-to-day with an injury and we'll make the determination when Craig comes back. Craig Anderson is the No. 1 goaltender, when Craig is healthy and ready to play we'll make the decision as to who gives us the best chance to win the next game. We're not going to make any decisions until then."

Who's hot: Jesse Winchester has two goals and one assist in the Panthers' past three games. Winchester has four goals this season, already tying his career high. … Kyle Turris has two goals and six assists during a six-game point streak for the Senators. Ryan has three goals and six assists during a five-game point streak. Clarke MacArthur has two goals and four assists in the past five games.

Injury report: Florida goalie Tim Thomas (lower body) is on the road trip. He wasn't ready to return Thursday in his old stomping grounds of Boston, but the hope is he could play either Saturday or at the New York Rangers on Sunday. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) and forward Steven Pinizzotto (hip) are on injured reserve. … In addition to Anderson, forward Erik Condra (leg) is sidelined for Ottawa.

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