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Lightning Give Coach A Jolt

Steve Ludzik was fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, his team struggling with the third fewest points in the NHL.

He was replaced by assistant John Tortorella, whose first game as head coach will be Sunday at Chicago.

Ludzik had been the Tampa Bay coach since last season. The team is 12-20-5-2 this season with 31 points. Only Florida and Montreal have fewer points.

Ludzik's overall record was 31-74-14-2.

"We made a very, very tough decision today, one that was in the absolute best interest of the Lightning team, our young players and the entire organization," said Rick Dudley, the team's senior vice president of hockey operations.

Tortorella, who joined the Lightning this summer, finished last season as the interim coach of the New York Rangers, replacing John Muckler with four games left in the season. He was not retained, even though he received the endorsement of several players.

"We were fortunate to have a quality coach with the experience of John Tortorella within the organization," Dudley said. "His track record, familiarity and comfort level with the team and our players eases this transition and positions us exceptionally for the future."

The 38-year-old Ludzik was hired in July 1999 after guiding the International Hockey League's Detroit Vipers to a 154-48-34 record and a Turner Cup championship during three seasons. He spent seven seasons in the NHL, mostly Chicago, retiring after 11 games with Buffalo in 1989-90. He had 46 goals and added 93 assists.

Before joining the Rangers last season, Tortorella spent eight years as an NHL assistant two with the Phoenix Coyotes and six with the Buffalo Sabres. He also coached the Rochester Americans for two seasons, leading them to the 1996 Calder Cup championship.

He never played in the NHL, but played professionally in Sweden and in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League.

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