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Senators reward Clouston with two-year deal

The Ottawa Senators are keeping Cory Clouston as their head coach, removing his interim tag Wednesday and signing him to a two-year deal.

The 39-year-old Clouston took over the Senators on Feb. 2, when Craig Hartsburg was fired after the team got off to a 17-24-7 start. They've been 19-10-3 since then, but will still miss the postseason after 11 straight appearances.

Still, owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray moved quickly to lock up the architect behind the turnaround.

"Cory's come in and done a remarkable job," Murray said during a news conference at Scotiabank Place, where the Senators play their final home game Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils. "He's made (the players) accountable."

Clouston had been in charge of the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton before taking over.

On Tuesday, the Senators beat the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins to run their franchise-record home-ice win streak to nine games.

"I just wanted the opportunity to continue what we started here," said Clouston, who's been living out of a hotel room. "I think the biggest thing that I'm looking forward to, and it's a long way away from now, is getting the next season started.

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"How we're playing right now gives us a lot of optimism."

Clouston is the fourth different coach to go behind the Senators bench since the team reached the Stanley Cup final in 2007. Last year, the team dumped John Paddock on Feb. 27 and general manager Bryan Murray took over to finish the season.

Hartsburg was hired last June and given a three-year contract, but he didn't even make it through the first season.

"It's about winning. it's about creating a team atmosphere and approach," Clouston said. "I think the big picture is that we have a game plan that the coaches and staff have put together and, fortunately, it's worked out."

Melnyk had confirmed Tuesday that Murray would be retained as general manager, and he'll be given permission to spend up to the salary cap in an effort to turn around the Senators.

"There's no question he'll be back next year. Bryan's done a great job," Melnyk said. "The way you judge a good GM is the way he recognizes a problem and acts on it.

"I'll give him a mulligan. He recognized a change was required. Think about it. He signed up Cory and look where we are today."