Peter Laviolette won more games than any American-born coach in NHL history. But he didn't win enough of them lately to keep his job with the Carolina Hurricanes, so they replaced him with their winningest coach - the same one Laviolette himself replaced 5 years earlier.

The Hurricanes fired Laviolette yesterday, brought back Paul Maurice to take over and moved Hall of Fame player and assistant general manager Ron Francis behind the bench as Maurice's associate coach.

"Paul's always on my mind. Everybody knows he's my good friend," Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said. "Take friendship aside, I wouldn't do this if I didn't think him and Ron were the right two to try and make some changes."

Laviolette led the team to its only Stanley Cup title in 2006, and last month he became the NHL's winningest American-born coach. But the Hurricanes - the only team in the league's modern history to miss the playoffs 2 straight years after winning it all - lost four of five during the past 1 1/2 weeks.

"We have a team that right now, in my opinion, is not playing with the kind of confidence it needs," Rutherford said. "We've lost that confidence."

Maurice has a career record of 344-357-137 in 11 seasons with Carolina and Toronto. He led the Hartford Whalers through its move to Carolina in 1997 and coached the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup final in 2002 and won 268 games with the organization before his firing on Dec. 15, 2003.

Laviolette, who coached the Islanders for two seasons, was 167-130-30 with Carolina.


* NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has summoned Sean Avery to New York for a hearing today on remarks that resulted in the indefinite suspension of the Dallas Stars' instigator. *

Bettman disciplined Avery on Tuesday for making "inappropriate public comments, not pertaining to the game." The punishment came down only hours after Avery used a crude term about his former girlfriends now dating other hockey players.

Avery missed games against Calgary on Tuesday and Edmonton last night. The league did not have a timetable for when a decision would be made.

* The Colorado Avalanche announced that 20-year stalwart Joe Sakic, who has been bothered all season by a bad back, will be sidelined at least 6 weeks while receiving treatment for a herniated disc.

In games last night:

* At New York, Petr Prucha returned from exile to score his first goal of the season in the third period and the Rangers beat Pittsburgh, 3-2, in a shootout.

* At St. Paul, Minn., Niklas Backstrom made 22 saves for his third shutout of the season and the Wild beat St. Louis, 4-0.

* At Chicago, Jonathan Toews broke a tie with 1:35 left in regulation in the Blackhawks' 4-2 victory over Ducks.

* At Edmonton, Lubomir Visnovsky had a goal and an assist in the Oilers' 5-2 win over Dallas. Mike Modano scored twice for the Stars.

* At Ottawa, Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists, and Ottawa got first-period goals by linemates Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson in a 5-1 win over Atlanta. *