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Francis Is Coyotes New Coach

The Phoenix Coyotes are expected to complete their search for a new head coach today by appointing Boston Bruins assistant Bobby Francis as the successor to Jim Schoenfeld.

The appointment of Francis, 40, has been an ill-kept secret since he and the Coyotes settled Monday on a three-year contract believed to be worth $350,000 a year. The team publicly refused to confirm Francis' hiring, but Coyotes assistant John Tortorella, who was believed to be in the running, said that Francis had the job.

General manager Bobby Smith cited the Coyotes' ineffective power play, which ranked next-to-last in the NHL, and general lack of offense after the franchise's eighth consecutive first-round playoff exit and second straight under Schoenfeld.

Phoenix still owes Schoenfeld, who was fired May 25, about $400,000 for the final year of his contract.

The Coyotes had a 39-31-12 record this season for 90 points, the second most in franchise history.

Francis spent the past two seasons as an assistant to Bruins coach Pat Burns. Boston returned to the playoffs this season, thanks in part to improved special teams play - units that Francis directed.

Boston had the NHL's best penalty killing unit at 89.2 percent, and its power play ranked eighth (17.7 percent) and seventh on the road (18.2),

The Coyotes succeeded only 12 percent of their power plays, and a league-low 11.3 percent at home.

Before joining Burns' staff, Francis had a 65-82-13 record in two seasons as coach of Providence of the American Hockey League, the Bruins' top affiliate.

He was a player-coach with Salt Lake City of the International Hockey League in 1986, and began a four-year run as coach of the Utah franchise, a Calgary affiliate, in 1988.

When Calgary shifted its affiliation to St. John in 1993, Francis moved to St. John and remained there until he took over at Providence in 1995.

Francis also has a strong NHL coaching bloodline. His father Emile "The Cat" Francis won 277 NHL games during 13 seasons behind the bench with the New York Rangers (1965-75) and St. Louis Blues (1976-77, 1981-83).

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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