The Tampa Bay Lightning will begin life without Guy Boucher, as the disappointing club visits the Winnipeg Jets for Sunday's clash at MTS Centre.
The Lightning made a major announcement Sunday morning, releasing Boucher of his head coaching duties after two-plus seasons with the team. Tampa general manager Steve Yzerman said assistants Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix will share the coaching responsibilities in Sunday's game.
"Guy has poured his heart and soul into the Lightning organization for these past three years and we appreciate all the work he has done," Yzerman said in a statement. "But ultimately I am not satisfied with the direction we are heading and I believe making a change today is in the best interest of our franchise."
A 5-3 loss at Ottawa on Saturday dropped the Lightning's record to 13-17-1. They are fourth in the Southeast Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference, five points out of a playoff spot.
Perhaps, Boucher was a victim of his own early success as he raised expectations considerably for the franchise in his first year behind the bench. As a rookie NHL head coach in 2010-11 he led Tampa to a 46-25-11 record and reached the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Boston Bruins by a 1-0 score in Game 7.
However, the Lightning missed the playoffs in 2011-12 and the club's regression has continued into 2013.
The Lightning's performance on Saturday did not reflect well on Boucher, as Tampa fell behind the Senators 4-0 in the opening period before showing some late signs of life in the 5-3 setback.
Tyler Johnson scored twice and Teddy Purcell also had a goal for the Lightning, who fell to 0-2 on a three-game road trip.
"We can't dwell on anything right now," said Johnson. "No one is feeling sorry for us, we just have to get things together and get a win, that's all there is to it."
Mathieu Garon didn't make it out of the first period as he gave up three goals on 11 shots while Cedrick Desjardins was charged with just one goal on 20 shots the rest of the way.
The Lightning will head home after Sunday's game and prepare for Tuesday's test against Buffalo. The meeting with the Sabres will kick off a three-game homestand at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Jets, meanwhile, will try to shake off a pair of disturbing home losses against the Washington Capitals when they host Lightning.
Winnipeg, which leads the Southeast by two points over Carolina, hosted the Capitals in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday and things did not go well for the home team. Washington notched a 4-0 victory in the opener and then took the second test by a 6-1 count.
The Jets will try to turn things around when they close a four-game homestand on Sunday. Winnipeg is 7-8-0 at MTS Centre this season and has won two of three home meetings against the Lightning since the franchise relocated from Atlanta to Winnipeg prior to the 2011-12 campaign.
The Jets and Lightning have split a pair of meetings so far this season, but Sunday marks the first encounter in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg surrendered two goals in each of the three periods against the Capitals on Friday and Alex Ovechkin scored twice for the visitors. Dustin Byfuglien scored the lone goal for the Jets.
Starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on nine shots. Al Montoya stopped 12 shots in relief for the Jets, who have lost three of four overall.
"You can dice it and slice it however you want, but we didn't win and that's disappointing," said Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel.
Jets defenseman Mark Stuart suffered an undisclosed injury in Thursday's game and was forced to sit out the rematch. The veteran blueliner is questionable for Sunday.
Winnipeg will get Tobias Enstrom back Sunday after the talented blueliner sat out the past 19 games with a shoulder injury. Enstrom, who last played on Feb. 15, has 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists) in 13 games this season.
Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey will sit out Sunday's game with an injured hand.