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Struggling Ottawa Senators fire coach John Paddock; GM Bryan Murray takes over

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) -The struggling Ottawa Senators fired coach John Paddock on Wednesday, with just 18 games to go in the season.

General manager Bryan Murray will take over as coach. Murray stepped aside to become the general manager last summer, when Paddock was given the job.

Assistant coach Ron Low was also fired, a day after the team was shut out for the second consecutive game.

"It comes certainly because of performance lately," Murray said. "The results we've been having - or not having - was an indicator that some adjustment, some emotion had to be brought back to the team."

Murray, who led the Senators to the Eastern Conference title last year, will continue to perform his duties as general manager.

"It's always a surprise when a coach gets let go," center Jason Spezza said at the team's hotel in Philadelphia, a day before the Senators played the Flyers. "We've been struggling, but as a team I don't think we thought it would come to the coach getting fired.

"It just shows the high standard we have in our dressing room, the city of Ottawa, and that our owner has. It shows how competitive a team they think we have."

Paddock was in his sixth season with the Senators organization. He posted a 36-22-6 record in his lone season as head coach. The Senators won 15 of their first 17 games and were first in the Eastern Conference until last weekend, when they were passed by New Jersey.

Ottawa came into Wednesday with a one point lead in the Northeast Division over Montreal.

Things got especially bad on Monday, when the Senators were beaten 5-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game Paddock called a "total embarrassment." Ottawa followed that up a night later with a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.

"It's a difficult (decision), but it's the right one at the moment," Murray said. "Really since late December, we've seen the team not compete at the level we were close to competing at for most of the first part of the year."

Assistant coach Greg Carvel, goaltending coach Eli Wilson, conditioning and player development coach Randy Lee and video coach Tim Pattyson remained on staff.

Paddock was offered another role in the organization.

The 65-year-old Murray has coached more than 1,300 games in the regular season and playoffs. He has a regular-season coaching record of 100-46-18 with Ottawa.

Murray began his NHL coaching career with the Washington Capitals on Nov. 11, 1981. He remained at the helm of the Capitals for over eight seasons and won the Jack Adams Award in 1984 as the NHL's coach of the year.

"Bryan and John share the same philosophy, so it's not going to change that way," Spezza said. "We've a good hockey club and we expect to win.

"We have to find a way to get winning games again."

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Associated Press writer Bob Lentz contributed to this report.

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