Flyers sack Stevens and put Laviolette behind the bench

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The slumping Philadelphia Flyers have fired coach John Stevens and replaced him with Peter Laviolette, General Manager Paul Holmgren said on Friday.

Philadelphia, in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with a 13-11-1 record, have lost three successive games and six of their last seven.

"This was a very difficult decision for me to make, given my relationship with John," Holmgren said in a statement on the Flyers' website (http://flyers.nhl.com).

"In watching the team over the past few weeks I felt a new voice was needed in order to get us out of this and in the direction we expect."

Stevens, hired by the Flyers in 2006, went 120-109-34 and had two 10-game losing streaks.

"Obviously this is a great opportunity," said Laviolette, whose first game in charge will be on Saturday against visiting Washington.

"I am really excited. The Flyers are an organization that has a lot of tradition and a lot of history."

(Writing by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Patrick Johnston; To query or comment on this story emailsportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)