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BC-HKN--Sabres-Housley,1st Ld-Writethru

April 7, 2019
AP Hockey Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres fired coach Phil Housley on Sunday following two underperforming seasons and after the team extended its franchise-worst playoff drought to an eighth consecutive year.

The team made the move a day after the Sabres closed their season with a 7-1 win at Detroit. Buffalo finished 13th in the Eastern Conference standings and joined the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers in becoming the second of 50 NHL teams to miss the playoffs in the same season in which they won at least 10 straight games.

The 55-year-old Housley is a Hall of Fame defenseman who spent his first eight NHL seasons playing in Buffalo but failed to restore any semblance of success to a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff round since reaching the East finals in 2007.

Housley’s firing comes after the Sabres endured a lengthy collapse over the final four months of the season.

They went 2-7-1 in their final 10 games and were 16-33-8 since enjoying a franchise-record-matching 10-game winning streak that ended in late November.

Overall, Housley finished with a 58-84-22 record in Buffalo.

He told reporters Saturday that he expected to return next season.

The Sabres’ victory at Detroit ended a 0-12-2 road skid, which matched the second-longest in franchise history. And Buffalo closed the season with back-to-back wins.

But Housley’s fate was essentially sealed during a 0-6-1 skid in early March during which Buffalo was shut out in three consecutive games.

The slump began a little over a week after general manager Jason Botterill backed Housley by saying the team had made progress and added: “There’s not going to be a coaching change.”

Botterill was scheduled to speak to reporters later Sunday.

Now the Sabres are embarking on a search to hire their fifth coach in six years since Lindy Ruff was fired amid the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

Housley replaced Dan Bylsma, who was fired along with general manager Tim Murray in April 2016, after Sabres owner Terry Pegula complained the team lacked discipline, structure and communication.

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