Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis takes indefinite leave for family reasons

Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St-Louis stands behind his bench during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. The Penguins won 4-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Montreal Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis is taking an indefinite leave for family reasons.

Assistant coach Trevor Letowski will run the team while St. Louis is away, the Canadiens said Saturday.

Montreal lost 5-2 at Calgary on Saturday night in the opener of a five-game trip. It is 6-13-4 in its last 23 games.

“It was different with Marty not being here,” captain Nick Suzuki said following the loss to the Flames. “We have a really good group in here, a lot of good coaches and business as usual. Missing him and hoping and wishing for the best for him.”

The Canadiens (25-31-11) are seventh in the Atlantic Division. They head to Edmonton to face the Oilers on Tuesday.

“Leaders need to step up. Coaches are put in a different position,” Suzuki said. “We’re helping them. They’re helping us. When you lose your big leader like that, everyone’s got to pull on the same rope.”

The 48-year-old St. Louis was hired as interim coach after the Canadiens fired Dominique Ducharme in February 2022. He signed a three-year contract extension in June 2022.

Before coaching, St. Louis enjoyed a stellar playing career, collecting 1,033 points (391 goals, 642 assists) in 1,134 regular-season games with the Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers. He won the Stanley Cup and the Hart Trophy as the league MVP with the Lightning in 2004 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.

The 46-year-old Letowski is in his third season as a Montreal assistant. He was previously the head coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires.

Letowski played 616 NHL games for the Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes. He said he was informed Friday that St. Louis would be absent from the club.

“It’s an emotional time, there’s no question, but you just have to dig in and just grind it out,” Letowski said Saturday. “We have a job to do to fill some big shoes with Marty’s absence."