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Canadiens interim coach St. Louis 'not coming here to be a substitute teacher'

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Newly minted Montreal Canadiens interim bench boss Martin St. Louis is set to make his NHL head coaching debut Thursday night when his side takes on the Washington Capitals, meaning he has 37 games to try and shed his interim tag.

"I'm not coming here to be a substitute teacher. ... I have every intention of being here a long time, but I'll have to prove myself again and earn it," St. Louis said during his introductory press conference, according to The Athletic's Arpon Basu.

The Canadiens fired Dominique Ducharme on Wednesday, less than one year after he helped lead the Habs to an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final.

In a 2021-22 season mired by injuries and an incredible pile of losses, it became clear to Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens' executive vice president of hockey operations, that the dejected team needed a "spark," per's Nick Cotsonika.

Gorton added he and general manager Kent Hughes had already decided that they would let Ducharme go at the end of this season, but they opted to cut his tenure short as the situation kept "deteriorating," according to TSN's John Lu.

St. Louis, a veteran of 1,134 NHL games as a player, was coaching peewee hockey in Connecticut prior to his hire and joked that his experience is precisely what the Canadiens require.

"If (there's) anything this team needs right now, it's to have fun. When these guys were in peewee, they had fun, so I'm probably the most qualified guy right now," he said, per Basu.

He added, "My job coming in is to just inspire them, and I think that's one of my strengths."

Going from coaching peewee to an Original Six franchise is quite the jump, but the Laval, Quebec, native isn't fazed.

"It's always been my dream to be an NHL coach. For me, ... it was a matter of time. ... Give me a chance, and I'll show what I can do," he said.

Hughes also hinted at further changes and said that the coaching shakeup will be "the first of several," according to Cotsonika.

Puck drops on St. Louis' coaching debut at 7 p.m. ET.

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