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Lightning to talk to Demers

Enter a new name in the Lightning coaching derby, and make plenty of room for it.

It is another big one.

Lightning general manager Phil Esposito said Thursday he has sought and received permission from the Montreal Canadiens to speak with Jacques Demers, two-

time winner of the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year with Detroit in the late 1980s who coached the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1993.

"Jacques is a guy who nobody has ever had one bad thing to say about him as a coach, no matter where he was," Esposito said. "That's the truth, and so that's why I felt I owed it to the organization to talk to him."

Demers was replaced by Mario Tremblay in Montreal in the 1995-96 season, and today Demers and Tremblay work as pro scouts for Montreal. Esposito said he asked Canadiens GM Rejean Houle for permission to speak with Demers while both were at a meeting of GMs earlier this week in Dallas.

"I plan on talking to him as soon as possible," Esposito said of Demers, who had not been publicly identified by Esposito as a candidate to replace the fired Terry Crisp. "His name has been there all along, it's just that I just asked Rejean in Dallas and I never got the permission until late (Thursday) afternoon.

"But nothing's changed," Esposito said. "I'm still just looking at other people, that's all."

The Lightning tried to hire former Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan, but he turned it down Oct. 27 _ a day after Crisp was let go.

From then, Esposito had identified only three serious candidates _ former Washington and Philadelphia coach Terry Murray (pro scout for the Flyers), former Los Angeles coach Barry Melrose (ESPN studio analyst) and Lightning assistant coach Rick Paterson (the team's interim coach).

Thursday, Esposito said all three remain under consideration.

He had sharp words, however, for Murray's agent, Robin Burns, who on Thursday was quoted by Bloomberg News as having said "I expect to find out either yeah or nay" today regarding a potential offer to Murray.

"It's off-base," Esposito said. "I told (Burns) I'd call him (today) to discuss it more, but I never told him I'd tell him one way or the other. If he's gonna put a gun to my head and insist I make a decision, then he's out. I'm not gonna make a decision on this quickly."