Double duty not likely for Murray

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The players won't like to hear this one bit, but far and away the best candidate to coach the Senators next season is not interested in taking the job.

Of course, he's not completely slamming the door on the possibility, either.

"The odds are not very good," Senators coach-GM Bryan Murray said before yesterday's game when asked if he'd consider returning to the bench in 2008-09. "I can't do both jobs."

Since firing John Paddock and taking over the position himself, Murray has guided the Senators to a 4-4-1 record, including yesterday's 5-1 loss. The team is playing much better than it was, however, and the soldiers are giving a chunk of the credit to the 65-year-old Shawville native, who stands fourth on the NHL's all-time list of coaching victories with 669, including a record of 104-50-19 behind the Senators' bench.

While owner Eugene Melnyk wanted Murray to remain behind the bench after guiding the Senators to the Stanley Cup final last spring, the two have not discussed next year's coaching plans.

"We just talked about getting through the rest of the year, getting the team back on track, trying to get into the playoffs and that's it," said Murray, who does not deny his love for instructing practices and calling the shots during a game. "Obviously I like doing it, but it's a little much at this point."

Asked if he'd start the search for a successor immediately after the Senators' final playoff game, Murray didn't provide the obvious and expected answer.

"Let's get through the year," he said.

STARTS AND STOPS

Patrick Eaves scored his first goal as a Hurricane yesterday in the same building and against the same goalie he scored his first goal as a Senator. Martin Gerber was the victim on both occasions .... Not exactly a scintillating return to Carolina for former Canes D Mike Commodore. He was in the box when Eaves scored, and was just 10 seconds into serving yet another first-period penalty when Joe Corvo gave the 'Canes a 2-1 lead ... Standing out in the RBC Center crowd wearing their Senators paraphernalia were Shannon from Molson's and Nicole from Local Heroes and fellow travelling Ottawa fans like John, Josh and Russ. Already down here and also rooting for his favourite team was pro golfer Brad Fritsch, a Manotick product who returns to the Nationwide Tour next week in Louisiana after a month-long break in the schedule.

BETWEEN PERIODS

Corvo told Ottawa reporters yesterday he had "mixed feelings" when the Senators sent him packing to Carolina Feb. 11. "At the time, I felt I was playing pretty well," he said. "I was contributing, I was having a lot more fun up there. Who knows? I didn't think it was going to happen, I didn't think the timing was right, but it did happen anyways." Doesn't exactly sound like a guy who had asked to be moved, does he? .... Corvo did, however, say he enjoys life in Carolina. "It's just different here -- obviously, the pressure's not there just because you don't see (hockey) all around," he said. "It is at the rink and then you go home and there's not 3-4 pages written about us in the newspaper. It makes it easier. Depends what kind of guy you are. For me, it made it easier. I feel more comfortable." ... Asked if was treated unfairly by the Ottawa media, Corvo said he felt the microscope was focused on him. "I don't think unfair, just looked at it too closely," he said. "People make mistakes out there. In some sense, those mistakes are blown up bigger. It just makes it tougher to enjoy playing hockey. I like to enjoy when I play well, I really wasn't getting interviewed either way, good or bad, this year. I think maybe I was a little bit standoff-ish."

ICE CHIPS

Martin Lapointe went toe-to-toe with considerably bigger Hurricane D Tim Conboy after Carolina's second goal. Lapointe threw more punches, but the majority landed on Conboy's helmet. Lapointe was flexing a sore right hand in the penalty box afterwards ... The Carolina crowd in a section close to us sang something about Gerber that included the words "you suck." He's had better days, but he's had much worse, too ... Why were the 'Canes fans so rambunctious? Might have had something to do with their excitement over the college basketball action. Never have we seen so many people gathered around so many TVs to watch hoops at a hockey game ... Before losing to the Hurricanes, Murray was asked about his plans for Chris Neil when the rugged winger returns from a knee injury, likely this weekend. Brian McGrattan and Nick Foligno were healthy scratches yesterday. Somebody's going to have to join them. "When you get people playing well it's hard to take a guy out of the lineup to put another guy in," Murray conceded. "Chris will have an impact in our team, I know that, so we'll have to do something to accommodate that. But for the time being if everyone plays the way they're playing, it'll be an unhappy decision for somebody, no doubt about it." Probably a little easier to make after yesterday's performance, though.


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