Mon, Jan 16, 2006 - Page 19 News List

General manager grabs reins of the Canadiens

AP , MONTREAL

The Montreal Canadiens fired coach Claude Julien on Saturday, with general manager Bob Gainey taking over on an interim basis and Guy Carbonneau slated to become coach at the season's end.

The Canadiens got off to a strong 12-3 start this season under Julien before losing 18 of their last 25 games.

"We have to push back so that we're moving up the standings by putting points on the board, rather than the other direction," Gainey said at a news conference.

Carbonneau said the decision to return to Montreal, where he was an assistant from 2000-2002, was an easy one despite the fact he won't take over until next season.

"I really enjoyed the experience when I came here five years ago, being behind the bench with [then-coach] Michel Therrien," said Carbonneau, who has no head coaching experience and was in his third season as an assistant GM with Dallas. "I couldn't wait for a second chance to come back in a different position."

He is replacing assistant coach Rick Green, who was fired along with Julien.

Gainey and Carbonneau, who played together in Montreal and worked together in Dallas, agreed to defer Carbonneau's appointment so he could develop a relationship with the players before taking over.

"I've been gone from here for three years," Carbonneau said. "I don't know a lot of the players that are here, so I think it would have been unfair for me to come in and try to control everything from the start."

Gainey said it wasn't necessary for Carbonneau to make his head coaching debut in the midst of a tumultuous season.

"There really was no reason to drop him into a pot of boiling water when we can drop him in and warm it up gently," Gainey said. "Guy will grab on to where we are and where we're going and what is needed quickly."

Gainey was on the ice for the team's morning skate to prepare for the Canadiens' game Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.

"The team needed something," defenseman Craig Rivet said. "I think we're slowly sliding in the wrong direction.

Still, Rivet added, "none of us expected this at all."

Julien was hired for his first NHL head coaching job on Jan. 17, 2003. The former NHL defenseman helped the Canadiens reach the second round of the playoffs in 2003-2004.

Green had been an assistant coach with Montreal since 2000.

"The coach is our boss and he makes everyone accountable and if it doesn't happen, like in any job, the guy in charge pays the price," team captain Saku Koivu said. "But it's always unfortunate when it happens."

The 52-year-old Gainey, who played for Montreal from 1973-1989, became coach of the Minnesota North Stars in 1990 and acted as coach and GM from 1992-1996. He was then general manager of the Minnesota/Dallas franchise until he joined the Canadiens as GM in 2003.

Alex Tanguay scored with 45.8 seconds left in overtime to help Colorado spoil Peter Forsberg's first game against his former NHL team in the Avalanche's 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

The Flyers forced overtime with a frantic final 2 minutes of regulation, getting goals from Mike Knuble and Forsberg before becoming dominated in the extra period.

The Avalanche took nine of their 34 shots in overtime and held the Flyers without a shot.

John-Michael Liles, Brett Clark and Antti Laaksonen also scored for the Avalanche, who've won seven straight games for the first time since January 2001.

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