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Next up on the coaching hot seat… Ottawa’s Cory Clouston?

Jan 5, 2011, 3:28 PM EDT

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Atlanta Thrashers v Ottawa Senators Getty Images

Things in Ottawa have been, to put it nicely, tough this season. With 37 points, they’re tied for third with Buffalo in the Northeast Division. They’re eight points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and this comes after a season where they finished fifth overall in the East and lost to Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs.  The Senators may have played a bit over their heads last year in spite of key injuries to Pascal Leclaire, Milan Michalek, and Jason Spezza.

This season, the script is virtually the same as those same three players are hurt again and this time, Brian Elliott and Mike Fisher aren’t picking up the slack. For coach Cory Clouston that’s become a serious problem as the Sens have fallen into the non-playoff team pack and the heat is on for Clouston to push the right buttons once again to get Ottawa back to the playoff hunt. Sens GM Bryan Murray, however, isn’t giving Clouston any votes of confidence as the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch shares.

After reading the riot act to the players before practice, Murray said in a scrum with reporters he couldn’t confirm Clouston is going to coach this club until the end of the season.

Clouston is in the final year of his contract and it would appear he’s facing a couple of must-wins Friday against the Blackhawks in Chicago and Saturday at home versus the Tampa Bay Lighting.

“I’m not going to answer a question like that because I don’t know,” said Murray. “We go to Chicago. We come home and play Tampa. We go on the road the following week. I can’t answer that honestly. I’ve talked to the staff about that. We’re all in a position where we have to do a better job.”

The Senators have a lot of problems, most of which center around staying healthy. The Sens had to know they couldn’t rely on Pascal Leclaire to stay healthy at all as he’s never been able to stay healthy ever in his career. Injuries to Spezza and Michalek are gut-punches for a team that’s not exactly deep with skilled forwards. Free agent acquisition Sergei Gonchar has been a severe disappointment and making some people think back on his years in Boston.

In other words, Bryan Murray had better be careful about who he’s pointing the finger at in Canada’s capital city because the mess in Ottawa isn’t just Clouston’s to clean up. The team Murray has helped put together wildly overachieved last year and it set the bar a bit too high for Clouston this season. Assuming that Brian Elliott or Leclaire would be able to replicate the success they had last year or that Mike Fisher’s one year offensive explosion would repeat itself was a huge gamble and it’s one that could cost both the coach and GM their job if things don’t turn around.

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