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Canadian Press
Nov 23, 2006, 2:47 PM EST


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ken Hitchcock ran his first practice as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, looking to restore confidence in a team with the fewest points in the NHL.

"We can't hang our heads and roll our shoulders," Hitchcock said at a Nationwide Arena news conference. "We've got to strut and we're going to start doing it tomorrow."

Hitchcock, the team's fifth coach in six years, was referring to Friday's game against Philadelphia. The Flyers fired Hitchcock on Oct. 22, and he said the return will be emotionally difficult.

"When I was on the plane flying here, I felt like, man, I'm in the 'Twilight Zone.' I hope the players have a lot better day than I'll have tomorrow," he said. "It's going to be a tough day."

Hitchcock declined to say if he'd make any immediate lineup changes, saying he needs more time to evaluate his players.

Team president and general manager Doug MacLean announced Hitchcock's hiring Wednesday shortly before the team's 4-3 shootout loss to St. Louis. It was the Blue Jackets' seventh consecutive defeat, leaving them with a 5-13-2 record.

Columbus has had a reputation for being a talented but soft team which features young stars such as Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev.

Despite a roster that also includes proven pros Sergei Fedorov, Fredrik Modin, Adam Foote, David Vyborny and Anson Carter, the Blue Jackets are last in the NHL in goals this season with 43 in their 20 games.

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