(SportsNetwork.com) - The struggling Florida Panthers' slow start to the season cost head coach Kevin Dineen his job. The Panthers will try to move forward with a new bench boss when they visit the Ottawa Senators for Saturday's matinee battle at Canadian Tire Centre.
The Panthers, mired in a seven-game losing streak, announced the firing of Dineen and his assistant coaches, Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay, on Friday morning. General manager Dale Tallon replaced Dineen with interim head coach Peter Horachek, who will have Brian Skrudland and John Madden serve as his assistant coaches.
The coaching shake-up came the day after a 4-1 loss at Boston on Thursday. That setback dropped Florida to 0-3-4 during its current slide and to 3-9-4 on the season.
"After 16 games it was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction," Tallon said in a statement Friday. "We have not met the expectations that we set forth at training camp and it is my responsibility to make the necessary changes to ensure that our club performs at its maximum potential."
Dineen's tenure began with a 38-26-18 record and a Southeast Division title in 2011-12. The Panthers' first playoff appearance since 2000 ended with a double-overtime loss to New Jersey in Game 7 of the opening round. However, Florida, ravaged by injuries, plummeted to the bottom of the standings last season, finishing with a league-low 36 points and a 15-27-6 record.
Horachek, 53, inherits a team with an NHL-worst minus-25 goal differential. He was in his first season coaching the Panthers' American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. Prior to his job in San Antonio, Horachek spent nine seasons (2003-13) with the Nashville Predators, serving the last two years as associate head coach.
"Peter is a bright hockey mind who brings to our club a wealth of coaching knowledge," Tallon said.
Florida sent 24 shots at net in Thursday's game versus the Bruins, but Tuukka Rask stopped 23 of them to anchor Boston in the 4-1 win at TD Garden. Jesse Winchester scored the lone Florida goal late in the third period, while Scott Clemmensen allowed all four goals on 30 shots in the loss.
The Panthers, who will close a three-game road trip Sunday against the New York Rangers, fell to 1-5-1 as the visiting team this season.
Horachek's first game behind the Florida bench will be in a venue that's been less to kind to the Panthers in recent years. Ottawa has won six straight and 10 of its last 13 home meetings versus Florida. Although the Panthers have won two of the past four encounters in this series, Ottawa has claimed 11 of the last 13 matchups.
While the Panthers try to end a lengthy slide on Saturday, the Senators will aim for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Ottawa has recorded consecutive wins against Columbus and Montreal and is 2-0-2 so far in November after posting a disappointing 4-6-2 record in the first month of the season.
Ottawa has won both tilts during its two-game streak by 4-1 margins. After earning a road win Tuesday in Columbus, the Senators notched a home win Thursday against Montreal. Bobby Ryan had one goal and two assists to lead Ottawa past the visiting Canadiens and begin a five-game homestand on a positive note.
"We made up some valuable points. That's essentially a four-point game there and we've got a game in hand on a team that's right ahead of us, so I think the thing we'll take from tonight is that we won a divisional game but we took care of our home ice," Ryan said.
Marc Methot, Kyle Turris and Mark Borowiecki added one goal apiece and Clarke MacArthur finished with a pair of assists for the Senators, who had lost five straight before winning their last two outings.
Robin Lehner made 33 saves in the win and is line to get his third straight start on Saturday. Lehner has filled in nicely since regular starter Craig Anderson suffered a head/neck injury last Sunday against Dallas. Anderson is expected to be available for today's game in a backup capacity. Nathan Lawson had been serving as a backup to Lehner while Anderson was out of the lineup.
Ottawa is 2-3-2 as the host this season and will also welcome Philadelphia, Boston and Columbus to Canada's capital city before this homestand is over.