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Senators fire coach Craig Hartsburg @NHLdotcom

OTTAWA (AP) -Craig Hartsburg was fired as coach of the Ottawa Senators on Monday, with the team apparently on its way to missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

He was dismissed after 48 games and replaced by Cory Clouston, who was promoted from the AHL's Binghamton Senators. Clouston is the team's fourth coach since Ottawa appeared in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals.

The Senators are 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 17-24-7 record and are 14 points out of the eighth spot to qualify for the playoffs.

General manager Bryan Murray said the coaching decision was made after a 7-4 loss to Washington on Sunday.

"We kept hoping there would be some change in our performance, which didn't seem to be taking place," Murray said during a news conference. "We just weren't making any progress. We're struggling to keep up."

The coaching change comes less than a week after owner Eugene Melnyk held a news conference to say he still believed in the team. Talk of a potential move surfaced in December while the world junior championships were in Ottawa.

Melnyk responded by saying 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 Eastern Conference elite, reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time. They were beaten in five games by Anaheim.

The momentum carried into the following season when the Senators won 15 of their first 17 games. Since then, they have had 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 is down for the club's three offensive stars - Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. There has been little offense as well from Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Chris Neil and Chris Kelly.

The once-feared Ottawa attack has become among the lowest-scoring in the league, and many point to the failure of defensemen to move the puck. In recent years, Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Andrej Meszaros and Joe Corvo have been among the defensemen moved out of Ottawa.

The team's management also has been in flux. Murray, hired as coach in 2004, succeeded John Muckler as general manager in June 2007 while John Paddock was appointed coach. Paddock was gone by midseason when Murray went back behind the bench, and Hartsburg took over to start this season.

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